Deep, enigmatic, and thrumming with life and energy, the ocean is the most powerful force on the planet and has held our fascination for millennia. Some of today’s most pioneering architecture is making it possible to get closer to its mysteries than ever before, as high-net-worth clients never tire in their pursuit of an uber-exclusive view. The skill is making undersea spaces that are as open as possible—concealing undersea rooms, transparent swimming pools and more—so that all that stands between you and trillions of liters of water, and many billions of fish, is a sliver of transparent material. These are our picks of the most inspiring in show to visit now.
Floating Seahorse house, Dubai
Floating houses are hardly a new concept, but the current generation of concepts goes far beyond the humble houseboat. The Floating Seahorse is a case in point; a villa with a different kind of basement: a living space with a self-contained reef. The 4,000-square-foot residence is pitched off the coast of Dubai, a city with a world-beating skyline and a seemingly endless desire for innovation.
The architect Jacques Rougerie has spent a lifetime pushing the boundaries of design, creating concepts for land, sea and space. The SeaOrbiter concept is a semi-submerged oceangoing vessel, one of a flotilla of ideas looking at new ways of experiencing, living in, and enhancing our relationship with the ocean, ranging from floating cities to artificial reefs. Intended for oceanographic research, the SeaOrbiter is designed to travel the world seeking out new scientific opportunities.
Aquarius Reef Base, Florida
Twenty metres down in the waters off Key Largo, Aquarius is part of Florida International University’s ongoing marine biological research. For the past three decades, the Aquarius laboratory has offered a temporary home on the seabed for up to six scientists. Although the base currently requires restoration and repairs following Hurricane Irma, the advantages of living and working at such depths mean longer dives and more time for research.
Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island, Maldives
The deep ocean is one of the final frontiers of terrestrial exploration. So it’s no surprise to find that high-end travel is waking up to the potential of this landscape, rich with beauty and mystery. For 20 years, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island has pioneered design that brings travelers closer to life both above and below the waves. It was the first Maldivian resort to build villas on stilts over the turquoise water of the lagoon and is home to the iconic Ithaa Undersea Restaurant. As the world’s first all-glass undersea restaurant, Ithaa is an acclaimed dining experience as well as a visual feast. Encased in a thick clear acrylic barrel vault, the restaurant sits five meters below the surface, surrounded by a vibrant coral garden. Ithaa’s fluid design was envisioned by Maldives architect Ahmed Saleem and brought to life by aquarium design specialist and civil engineer Mike Murphy. The resulting space sends ever-shifting patterns of light and shoals of brightly colored fish across diners’ fields of view.
The Underwater Observatory, Eilat
The crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Aqaba make it one of the world’s most popular diving spots. Three decades ago, the Israeli city of Eilat built the world’s first underwater observatory to take advantage of the sea life in this region. Set atop an artificial reef, Coral World mixes a retro design aesthetic with a unique guest experience, allowing visitors to descend to the seafloor.