It comprises a slender top-storey above water that contains the kitchen, living and dining area, and three bedrooms. An additional bedroom suite is submerged in the water and encased in curved, seven-inch-thick acrylic walls.
“The Maldives is known for its pristine beach and sea,” architect Yuji Yamazaki said. “The views of the ocean are breathtaking. But that’s only the half of the Maldivian beauty.”
“The other half exists underwater,” he added. “There is an underwater ecosystem that is worth showing to the visitors without diving in the sea.”
Guests arrive at the villa by a private seaplane and enter along a wooden jetty that leads into the top floor. A spiral staircase that features windows to the sea en route, or an elevator, then descends down to the 100-square-metre suite underwater.
A walkway between two smaller rooms for the bathroom and a walk-in wardrobe with windows to the water leads through to the bedroom, with a portal to an adjoining sitting area.
“We have the arch for the bedroom part where you can lie and look at the fish on top of you,” said Saleem. “We have the living room part, which is curved glass vertically where you can stand there and almost feel the water is going to crush you and make you part of the sea.”
“And then of course in the bathroom, you have these huge panes of glass looking out to nothing and to the fish.”
Yuri Yamazaki, which was responsible for designing all the interiors across The Muraka, chose a dark and moody aesthetic for the the room, including plenty of leather and carpet floors. Inside the bedroom, it also integrated long benches and the headboard into the walls.
“The interior design and much detailing of finishes were inspired from airplane luxury cabin,” said Yamazaki.
“Every part of interior was carefully measured, modulated, mocked up, and installed.”
A dark curtain was also custom-made to enable complete black-out – a feature that Saleem described as one of the most challenging aspects of the project. The team also included a fire escape, which acts as a marker of the room above water, and a panic button that triggers a signal at the main resort.
Saleem, who previously owned the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, initiated The Muraka project to follow the resort’s underwater restaurant Ithaa.
He enlisted Mike Murphy, an engineer and aquarium technology specialist, in order construct the heavy suite and submerge it under water. The island’s remote location, which can only be accessed by boat or seaplane, was also a key consideration.
The solution was to build the suite as three parts that could be fabricated and then transported to site by a barge, where it was then welded together. The 600-tonne structured was lifted by crane and placed in the water where it was secured onto concrete piles. Divers were on hand to help guide the suite into place.
As a contrast to the lower floor, the main level is decorated with a bright palette, including white-painted walls, grey, marbled floors and dark wood.
It includes an open-plan kitchen, living and dining room. A long expanse of sliding glass doors offer views to the water and open onto a wooden deck, where it is possible to jump straight into the sea. The outside area is complete with an infinity pool, shower, dining table and outdoor lounge.
Accessed from the living area, the master bedroom is joined by en-suite bathroom, where guests can soak in a tub while enjoying sea views through large expanses of glazing. There are an additional two bedroom designed to accommodate a children and a nanny, and a small gymnasium.
The Muraka, which translates as coral, was completed last year and is available to rent for $22,000 (£17,000) a night, during peak season. The cost includes a chef that prepares meals for guest and a private boat for exploring the island.
It follows a number of projects experimenting with the depths beneath the water, including another partially submerged hotel room located off the coast of Zanzibar . Earlier this year, architecture firm Snøhetta also completed Europe’s first underwater restaurant in Norway .
Photography is by Justin Nicholas .
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