Ivar Kvaal Photographs Europe’s First Restaurant On The Sea Floor

Ivar Kvaal Photographs Europe’s First Restaurant On The Sea Floor

Project of the Week

Strap on your swimmies because Norwegian photographer Ivar Kvaal is literally taking us under the sea in this Project of the Week.

Not only does the exterior of Snøhetta’s restaurant Under just descend into the ocean like it’s starring in The Hunt For Red October, but inside, you dine in a lair fit for a supervillain.

Ivar Kvaal has photographed many a strange and remote project, but this one may just be his crown jewel. Let’s start out at the front of the restaurant. Under sits on the rocky seaside of Lindesnes in southern Norway. Ivar shows off the oak cased entrance jutting up from the rocks and misty background. Look at that ocean spray coming up on the left. There is a very ethereal feeling. It just looks like the air smells damp and salty.

Around back, we catch a glimpse of what we’re in for. There is plenty of mood here. The water crashes onto the cliffs, sending a misty spray into the air. In the center of the frame behind the mist, we see Under’s faint outline. Ivar conveys a sense of mystery here, and I can’t wait to see more.

An incredible architectural feat, Under is also extremely environmentally conscious. The monolith’s concrete facade is specially built to become an artificial reef. With a perfectly timed shot of the waves crashing onto Under’s shell, we are shown that our eyes don’t deceive us; the casing really disappears into the water.

Ivar eases us into this strange yet fascinating space. Inside, he shows us some close crops that highlight the building materials and interesting colorways within the shell of Under. We know that a restaurant that submerges into the sea isn’t going to look like a Shake Shack inside, and Ivar confirms this. But wait, what’s that below?

A massive window allows diners to look out at the seabed, letting them be at one with the meal they are enjoying. Ivar photographs this eerie yet beautiful scene with such drama. The cyan color cast is enough to be accurate and set the tone of the image without being too overpowering. The fall off of the light created by the window is gradual but brings the drama!

It’s rare to see such a green-tinted photograph in architectural photography. However, when you’re dining in a periscope, it just works. I love that Ivar isn’t afraid to keep these images dark. It would hardly be as great of a project if he blasted this room with OCF. The mood is everything here!

A single silhouette shows us the relatively small dining area while emphasizing how grand that window to the sea is. Ivar shows the reflective qualities of the floor material. This shoot has such an otherworldly quality to it, it’s hard to comment on anything but!

Photographing the tables with guests and waiters shows the functionality of the restaurant. I’d assume that this is incredibly helpful for Under’s marketing materials, giving guests an idea of what to expect when they arrive at this abnormal dining experience. Ivar’s use of a tighter crop gives an intimate feel to this otherwise stark scene.

Beautiful and graphic details like these give us a glimpse of the building materials and the magic that Under emanates. Actually, according to Snøhetta’s press release on this project, “In Norwegian, ‘under’ has the dual meaning of ‘below’ and ‘wonder’. Ivar captured these elements which really drive home the fun and unconventional whimsy of this space. Look at the textures and reflections he was able to draw out despite the low lighting.

More masterful detail selects give – again – texture and context to this seemingly simple open space. These show the design elements that we are familiar with on the world above, down to this cavernous sub-sea level restaurant. I especially love the light radiating out from the observation window, and the way it highlights the patterns on the walls and stairs.

What a departing shot. A perfect summation of Under in its entirety. Ivar keeps things dark and stark as he has with the entire project. We are able to see the warm oak wood on the entrance of the restaurant. Out back, where we saw waves crashing on the monolith before, we now see lights streaming out under the surface of the water. This is the perfect end to a very alien feeling Project of the Week!

Ivar Kvaal is seemingly a master of photographing architecture in difficult locations. From remote stilt houses to craggy retreats, you can view his out-of-this-world work on his website or Instagram. Thanks so much for sharing this unreal project with us Ivar!

As always, If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.


About Lexi Taciak
Howdy! I'm Lexi, a photographer, graphic designer, and writer.