Half submerged in the wind-whipped waters of the North Sea, just off the rugged coast of Lindesnes on Norway’s southernmost tip, Under looks like the world’s most modern shipwreck. The region’s rocky landscape proves a striking yet unforgiving home for Oslo-based architecture firm Snøhetta’s ambitious project for local hoteliers Stig and Gaute Ubostad. ‘It was important that the structure be integrated in a respectful way – we wanted it to look like it’s diving into the water,’ says Snøhetta’s Rune Grasdal. ‘During submersion, the structure floated on its own before being moved to its final position – that was the riskiest phase.’
Doubling as a marine research centre out of dining hours, Under’s colossal half-metre-thick curved concrete hull is bolted into the bedrock five metres below water level, in an area where the storms of the North Sea converge, bringing with them incredibly abundant biodiversity. Designed to slowly integrate with the wildlife, the structure’s rough exterior functions as an artificial reef for kelp and limpets, as well as playing host to the many cameras and other measurement tools that will document life underwater.
Inside, an imposing Norwegian oak staircase leads down to a welcoming, cave-like interior, dominated by a vast floor-to-ceiling window. The textile-clad ceiling deepens from sunset pink to a rich cerulean blue as you descend. ‘Under provides a journey into the unknown. Guests will be given a unique opportunity to experience a submerged universe,’ says Grasdal.
The seafood dishes are served on ceramics crafted from local sand and the 40-seat dining room sits under a constellation of hundreds of LED lights that, when adjusted, illuminate the conditions outside. In Norwegian, ‘under’ means both ‘below’ and ‘wonder’ – a fitting name for this architectural achievement. under.no
This article first appeared in August 2019 issue of Elle Decoration
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