When you imagine a restaurant set in an aquarium, you don’t expect much more than mediocre fast food with catchy names like “Shark Burger” and “Seaweed Salad.” The Ithaa Undersea restaurant blows that idea out of the water, so to speak, by creating the ultimate romantic restaurant.
In this restaurant, diners are seated in a long glass tube that rests on the bottom of the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. Surrounded by crystal-clear, aquamarine water, guests can see far into the depths of the ocean and watch as tropical fish, stingrays, and other rare creatures of the depths casually swim by. For a loving couple, the Ithaa Undersea restaurant represents the ultimate in romantic dining. For the fish, it is probably quite a bit grimmer, as they get to watch humans eat other fish while behind a glass shield.
The restaurant represents the ultimate in lavish excess. Meals cost a whopping $120 to $250 per person. While prices that high are expected, they are necessary to cover the building costs. The structure was built in Singapore, transported on an oversized barge to the Maldives, and then the 175 tonne building was sunk to a mere 16 feet beneath the surface of the ocean. For all that work, the restaurant is only expected to have a lifespan of about 20 years.
While the restaurant is undoubtedly impressive – don’t get me wrong, I’d want to eat there if I ever ended up in the Maldives – it’s surprising to see such lavish excess in a restaurant design. The building can only feed a meager 14 people at a time; meanwhile, many other architects are incorporating water into building designs to showcase how easily and efficiently buildings can go green. While the Lilypad and the Water Droplet Resort are utilizing solar and tidal currents to create energy and clean water, the Ithaa Undersea restaurant is serving several-hundred-dollar champagne and pretentiously small crab cake appetizers.
The restaurant is certainly amazing, but only when viewed with the right context. As far as restaurants go, is the Ithaa Undersea restaurant impressive? Absolutely. As far as aquatic architecture goes, is it still impressive? Not so much.