Luxury used to mean the consumption of precious objects and items. Then it became the consumption of exclusive services. Now, it’s all about “transformative experiences” – this is luxury 3.0. Carr is pioneering this outrageous new archetype with one of 2017’s most Instagrammed projects. But here’s what your social feed might not have told you about the Jackalope Hotel…
December 12th, 2017
The demand for ‘transformative experiences’ in the luxury travel market requires the ability to transport and excite. They need to communicate, mesmerise, delight and surprise guests, whether they are a first-time punter or a seasoned traveller. These environments not only need to tell a story – but invite you to actively participate in that story, too.
In one of the most daring and avant-garde moves in the hotel industry to date, the Carr-designed Jackalope Hotel on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula wine region provides an otherworldly experience rich with narrative and imagination – and oh my goodness, it’s damn extraordinary. But how exactly has Carr built-in this ability to offer guests a ‘transformative experience’? From head to toe, the project is guided by the theme of ‘alchemy’ – a nod to its 18th century heritage as a working vineyard.
The theme is beautifully stitched into every facet of the space, from the greater architectural elements down to its fixtures and fittings, all working harmoniously to lead guests further and further down the rabbit hole of this distinct sensory wonderland. Upon arrival, imposing black pyramid sculptures sit either side of the entry – certainly the last thing you’d expect to see in that landscape. A simple, almost agricultural driveway winds its way through rows of vines and century-old native trees, concealing the structure from view until a single point atop a small rise reveals the unexpected and dramatic monolith-like exterior.
Nestled within a matrix of indigenous and non-indigenous mass planting, the hotel’s black, standing-seam metal clad form, charred timber detailing and dramatic saw cut roof deliberately reference the historical form of the adjacent restored agricultural and barrel room barns, but with a more hyperbolic take on the traditional architecture, designed to confuse and even somewhat disorient. It’s almost as if it shouldn’t be there, but also like it’s been there since the beginning of time.
Carr’s director of architecture, Chris McCue notes: “The architecture here is unprecedented and unconventional with a simplicity and form that belies what lies within. Its monolithic, blackened structure provides a vivid juxtaposition to the rich green, red and silver foliage of the landscape and adjacent vines yet integrate seamlessly with its surrounds.”
Atop the winding dusty trail, guests are greeted by a striking seven-and-a-half metre high Jackalope sculpture by local artist Emily Floyd, alluding immediately to the whimsical, even mythical qualities of the hotel beyond. Once inside, the dramatically illuminated black glass box is greatly effective in further defining the hotel’s sense of purpose and place.
This centrepiece immediately connects and adds context to the ethereal guest experience, while also serving the more functional purpose of housing and displaying the local wine from the adjoining vineyard. And that’s really the point – no part of Jackalope is designed, just for the sake of it. Every inch of this project – though initially bold – is a considered moving part of something much larger and cohesive.
Even the display of something as simple as wine has been elevated to exist in this highly-stylised, obtuse environment. And that’s what makes it so transformative. Wherever you are, internally or externally, you just can’t escape the story. These elements are purposefully and meticulously designed-in to completely immerse the guest at every imaginable touchpoint. Nowhere is this technique more prevalent than the hotel’s bar, lounge and fine-dining restaurant Doot Doot Doot. Celebrating the hotels origins, the signature bar, Flagggerdoot is housed within the original 18th century Federation cottage, its architecture having been thoroughly and sensitively restored.
However, in a marked departure from the conservatism of the heritage-listed house (and in a nod to experimentation, defiance and flamboyance), the lounge interiors are dominated by test tube glass vessels lining the walls, a marble-clad bar acting as the alchemist’s workbench, as well as precious objects and iconic, statement furniture pieces, including Edra’s gold Leather Works armchair and an electric blue billiard table. It’s all unashamedly luxurious, opulent, and further sets the stage for the alchemy theme prevalent throughout the entire hotel.
One thing I’m willing to bet you’ve definitely seen while scrolling through Instagram is the spectacular light installation on the restaurant’s ceiling, collaboratively designed by Carr and Fabio Ongarato Design (FOD). Jewel-like in form, what you might not know is that the installation references fermentation and bubbling (again, another comment on the theme of alchemy) while celebrating the hotel’s own working winery and vineyard providing an immersive, interactive and tactile wine experience for guests.
This journey ultimately leads guests to the accommodation wing, where tonal themes around planetary and astrological metals of gold, silver, copper or bronze – reflected in the metallic coloured mosaics, furnishings and accessories – further reinforce this otherworldly, almost Australian-take-on-Twin-Peaks style setting. Blackened timber accent walls, deep-soak, black resin custom designed baths, integrated joinery, feature lighting that is at once subtle but exciting, and sharp detailing throughout provides a sense of indulgence and comfort, while floor-to-ceiling windows and private terraces connect occupants to the surrounding natural landscape.
“The interiors celebrate the mystery and whimsy of alchemy and the art of transformation, throughout,” says Carr director of interiors, Dan Cox. “The collection of spaces reflect and embrace the idea of the ‘alchemists workshop’; eclectic, experimental and contemporary in detailing; forming something truly unique and rare.”
Empowering the guest to continually expand their immediate world, the Jackalope Hotel will redefine the future of luxury on an international scale. Carr’s work here is a marvel of technique and skill, successfully transporting guests on a wonderfully rich and inescapable journey.
Ultimately, this sense of magic and theatre, which in my opinion completely reinvents the luxury hotel stay for the modern traveller, has more than earned its place as a legitimate design approach moving into the coming market for more experimental design. In fact, I’m already clambering to see more.
This article originally appeared in issue #71 of Indesign magazine. Take a look at our Top 5 Hotels for Summer getaway.
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