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Snøhetta is building a restaurant beneath the North Sea

Here’s how the firm is pulling it off.

Italian photographer Aldo Amoretti is on a tour of Nordic architecture, and his latest stop features a close-up look at the construction process behind the Oslo- and New York-based architecture firm Snøhetta’s underwater restaurant and marine research center. The building–which I compared to a stranded alien spaceship when it was first announced–is now under construction near its final destination in the ay of Båly, a fishing village on the coast of Norway. “The [construction location] is very calm and peaceful. It was very emotional to see it in its entirety during sunrise,” Amoretti says.

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Inside the partially submerged design, visitors will find two things. Above water, a marine research facility. Below the water line, an exclusive restaurant and cocktail bar helmed by young Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard. Patrons will be able to take in the bay’s subaquatic landscape from their chairs through a panoramic plexiglass window. But how the building is being constructed is just as interesting.

[Image: MIR/Snøhetta]

The structure’s external concrete shell has been cast on a barge in Lindesnes, a Norwegian port town close to its final destination, explains Snøhetta’s marketing communications coordinator Therese Sanni. The shell thickness varies from about 16 to 20 inches at different places. “When completed, the acrylic underwater windows will be set in place, making the structure watertight,” Sanni says.

[Photo: Aldo Amoretti]

Then, the shell will be transported via barge to its final destination. Using a giant crane on another barge, construction companies Asplan Viak and Core Marine will slowly lower the hollow, sealed shell into the water, using the structure’s buoyancy to help this very delicate operation. The companies are also preparing the final site with foundation elements that are being cast directly on the ocean floor. Then, like two Lego pieces, the shell and the supporting concrete foundation will interlock. The final step will be to secure the shell in place, bolting it to the foundation. The rest of the building–which is on the surface–will be built around it.

[Image: MIR/Snøhetta]

Once the underwater restaurant is in place, Sanni says, workers will access the underwater structure through a 33-foot bridge that connects the shore to a landing area in the opening above the water level. They will build and assemble everything needed to make the restaurant functional inside the shell, under the water line: interior surfaces, electrical, air conditioning, plumbing, and various equipment installation for the kitchen, restaurant, bar, and restrooms.

The company plans to have the building operational in early 2019, when visitors will be able to eat seafood while looking out at the seafood living in the freezing waters of the North Sea through the shell’s giant windows. I’m sure Amoretti will return to take photos–until then, keep following his photographic adventure here and on Instagram.

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About the author

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce and a contributing writer at Fast Company.

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