Underwater buildings: Dive into a different world
From the forests and the woodland to the water, there is virtually no landscape on earth that remains untouched by human architecture. Water has long formed a natural boundary defining the edges of human living space. But now, underwater architecture is crossing these natural lines and showing how nature and architecture can work together.
Under: A marine dining experience in the first underwater restaurant
Somewhere just off Norway's rocky coastline, this monolith of a restaurant protrudes from the sea; it houses Under, the first underwater restaurant in Europe designed by award-winning architects Snøhetta.
The jagged half-sunken building, which rests on the sea bed off the southernmost tip of Norway, has the appearance of having been forced into its position by an act of nature. Sunlight penetrates the building only through the above-ground entrance to the three-storey concrete block. At the other end, a large panoramic window opens out onto another world.
Five metres below the water surface, the solid pane of acrylic glass separates diners from the marine spectacle unfolding on the sea bed, where nature’s fascinating display changes with the seasons and the weather.
With its metre-thick raw concrete shell and streamlined structure, Under blends seamlessly into the marine environment. In the future, its coarse, erosion-resistant outer walls will become home to mussels and other molluscs, transforming the sunken building into a living and breathing reef.
On opening in 2019, the restaurant will have a capacity of 100 diners. Outside restaurant opening hours, the 600-square-metre building could also be used as a research centre.
Blue planet: In the slipstream of underwater buildings
If you fly into Copenhagen, you’ll be able to spot a fascinating piece of underwater architecture as you approach the runway: The Blå Planet aquarium in the district of Kastrup, near the airport, is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. Developed by the architects at 3XN, the sculptural shape of the Danish National Aquarium is a spectacle from land or air. The exterior façade is lined with small, diamond-shaped aluminium panels that reflect the sky and the water in the Øresund strait.
Inspired by circulation currents and the never-ending motion of the water, the whirlpool-shaped building draws visitors into a breath-taking underwater world. The circular foyer in the middle of the whirlpool is the centre point in the centrifugally structured exhibition space. From here, visitors can follow one of five routes into the underwater building. Rows of metre-high tanks line the glass corridors, housing over 20,000 river-, lake- and ocean-dwelling creatures from all over the world.
Underwater Room at the Manta Resort: Sleeping in the reef
With their characteristic white sandy beaches, gently swaying palms and turquoise blue seas, the islands off the coast of East Africa are among the most beautiful places on earth. Around 250 metres off the coast of Pemba in Tanzania, a wooden house boat floats in the serene ocean. At first glance, it looks like something from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – but in fact, if you’re lucky enough to be able to stay here, you’ll be spending the night in one of the most exclusive rooms in the world: the Underwater Room at the Manta Resort.
After check-in, guests are taken to the three-storey luxury suite – half of which is underwater – by boat. A wooden ladder takes you down to the underwater bedroom, which offers 360-degree panoramic views into the exotic underwater kingdom. Surrounded by windows, guests can observe corals, skates, small sharks and colourful fish in the crystal-clear water, from the comfort of a king-sized bed. At night, a number of small spotlights on the outer walls illuminate the underwater landscape. Above sea level, the suite has a roof terrace for sunbathing.
Architecture is pushing the limits of physics even under water – and there are more spectacular undersea constructions in the pipeline for sites around the world.
Given what has already been achieved in the realm of underwater buildings in just these select few projects, futuristic concepts like Dubai’s underwater tennis centre suddenly don’t seem all that unrealistic after all.
Can you imagine visiting an underwater museum, eating dinner or even spending a whole night under water? Let us know what you think of these underwater buildings in the comments!
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