Europe's first underwater restaurant to open in Norway

 Jacopo Prisco and Ana Rosado

Europe will soon see its first underwater restaurant, according to the project's Norwegian architects. The planned concrete structure features a 36-foot wide panoramic window and is designed to become part of the marine environment. It's expected to be completed by early 2019, with construction work starting in February 2018, at the southernmost point of Norway's coastline.

The restaurant has been designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, known for its work on the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. Called "Under," the restaurant will stand on the seabed five meters below the surface, its thick walls designed to withstand the most variable sea conditions.

"One of the benefits of this building is how it links nature and land, and how you can come safe from the land and in a very dramatic way go down through this concrete tube to the nature at sea level, and experience what normally is not experienced," said Rune Grasdal, lead architect on the project.

Visitors can expect three levels and a capacity of up to 100 people. Below the entrance and the cloakroom, there will be a champagne bar, to mark the transition between shoreline and ocean. Further down there will be a dining room, with two long tables and several smaller ones positioned in front of the large acrylic window, which will be 13 feet tall.

Grasdal, who likened the building to a periscope, said it's important people feel secure and not claustrophobic. To achieve this the design team took into consideration a myriad of elements, like natural materials -- such as oak -- and good lighting. Grasdal explains: "it should be an exciting experience but people should also feel secure and well when sitting down there."

Environmental considerations have guided the design, which is housed in a coarse concrete shell to invite mussels to cling on. Outside of opening hours, the unit will double as a marine biology research center, with planned experiments to study the behavior of marine life through shifting seasons.

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