The Alchemy Narration of Jackalope Hotel
Behind a great design is always a solid narrative that makes the concept flourish into an inspiration. Those who dare to choose a strong story as the foundation of their design will achieve the timelessness that designers dream of. During our last visit to the Mornington Peninsula in Australia, we found a hotel that is not only inspiring but also an instant classic!
The Mornington Peninsula in the southern part of Melbourne is one of Australia’s most beautiful shires that is not only known for its spectacular natural sceneries, but also vineyards, a golf course, beaches, gastronomic institutions, wellness, and hotels. Among all of these elements that the region is known for, Jackalope Hotel that was launched in 2017 is also one of its top highlights.
The reason behind that lies in the narrative of the hotel’s concept. As one of the new kids on the block, Jackalope Hotel appears with a fresh new concept of hotel design that uses an out-of-the-box approach. They chose a mythical creature from a North American folklore called jackalope, a portmanteau between a jackrabbit and an antelope, as its brand. This approach not only showcases creativity but also a whimsical nature that the hotel is offering as a concept.
To make a solid narrative, the hotel adds the alchemy process into its conceptual equation. Alchemy is a medieval practice that is loosely associated with chemistry. It is best described as the art of transformation, the lust of the unobtainable, the creation of the inconceivable, and the pursuit of the elixir of life. The medieval mechanism for beatitude shares an ideological alliance with the mythical and metamorphic jackalope. At this hotel, the alchemy narrative in each area will represent a stage of the alchemy process in winemaking.
In creating the design concept, the Jackalope Hotel follows the process of alchemy that is made up of experimentation and perfection. It is divided into seven stages; distillation, fermentation, incineration, fixation, projection, crystallisation and multiplication. They chose to implement this concept throughout the artsy direction and appointed the renowned CARR Design Group to turn it into reality.
Located inside a working vineyard, Willow Creek, we are first greeted by a gigantic jackalope sculpture by the entrance piazza upon arrival. This seven-metre tall black sculpture made out of aluminium and painted using automotive paint was created by the famous Melbourne-based artist, Emily Floyd, and it is a stunning piece-de-resistance. The first stage of distillation on the hotel alchemy concept starts from the lobby area. Situated on the site of an 18th century Federation cottage, the hotel preserved its classic façade and added a contemporary flair into the interior design as they transformed it into the reception area. This area represents the first stage of alchemy; distillation. As the key process on all levels of alchemy, distillation aims to gain a purified liquid. The result is a sexy and sophisticated lobby area with a black nuance from the triangular black parquet to the black ceiling.
Juxtaposing the lobby is a cocktail lounge called Flaggerdoot featuring a marble bar and a series of revolver stools that are made by Danish designers called HAY. The cool effect in design inside this cocktail lounge comes from a combination of edgy artworks such as Rolf Sachs’ chemistry light installation and Andrew Hazewinkle’s agate faced the 19th century busts with great furniture design such as Edra leatherwork chairs by the famous Campana Brothers and international fashion designer Rick Owen’s tag bench, just to name a few. The lounge is also accentuated by a restored 1960s electric blue pool table by Harry Evans & Sons.
The hotel’s entrance provides a contemporary link and juxtaposition between the historic architecture of the restored cottage and the imposing, modernist concept of the new hotel. The design journey continues through a dark passage with a black-tinted glass box displaying bottles of wine that stands as part object and part installation. At the end of this passage is the second stage in their alchemy concept which is fermentation. The idea of this stage is to introduce a new life into the product of conjunction to completely change its characteristics, to completely raise it to a whole new level of being. At the Jackalope Hotel, this concept is translated into Doot Doot Doot, a private dining area that is serving one of the best gourmet experiences in this region.
The Melbourne-based architect, Pascale Gomes-McNabb, internationally recognised and awarded for her work on some of Australia’s most revered restaurants, was appointed as the design consultant and was in charge of craftsmanship, materiality, and giving the theatricality effect to this space. There is also a massive light installation by Jan Flook to create the surreal sensation of fermenting wine. The renowned contemporary light designer hung 10,000 globes on the ceiling and took two weeks to install. This light installation with the black ambience as the background is the major centrepiece at Doot Doot Doot restaurant.
From the fermentation process, we now arrive on to the third stage of alchemy which is incineration, where the conversion of a substance to ashes is done through a powerful fire process. In the hotel, this process is represented in the form of a hallway that connects to the room area. Divided into two floors, here, CARR Design Group takes the guests on a journey through the workshop of an alchemist using dramatic colours and lighting to create an “otherworldly experience” by incorporating tonal elements of gold, copper and bronze throughout.
The Jackalope has 46 rooms that range from the 38 square-metre “Terrace Room” and “Vineyard” with generous outdoor views to the 85 square-metre “Lair” suites that include a kitchenette and dining area. Inside this well-designed “Lair” also features furniture such as Nest Chair by Autobahn design studio from Istanbul, Prometheus III (crystal light) by Melbourne-based industrial designer Christopher Boots, and Marcel Wanders design for MOOOI in the form of a container table and Magis Cyborg chairs. Continuing the hotel’s colour scheme, all of the rooms are also dominated in black and grey tones with metal accents. Inside all the rooms are black Japanese bathtubs made of stone, to give that spa-like setting. The interior design inside the rooms is the continuation of another alchemy stage called projection. In this stage, the process of projection would be used to transmute a lesser substance into a higher form, often lead into gold.
Being an artsy-luxury boutique hotel, the Jackalope pays great attention to detail on the surrounding hotel buildings. Following the alchemy concept, they created a landscape design that shows the fixation stage of the alchemy process. In theory, this is a process that makes the volatile subject fixed or solid, so it remains permanently unaffected by the fire. The famous Australian landscape designer Taylor Cullity Lethlean was chosen to embody this concept by combining the existing beautiful natural wilderness with the vineyard.
The outdoor part of the hotel is where we can find the last two stages of this hotel alchemy concept in design. A jewel faceted room representing a gigantic geode that overlooks the vineyard and pool deck is the embodiment of the crystallization process. CARR Design Group created this space as a multifunction room to hold various events from weddings to private dinners. The last part of this alchemy process which is multiplication is implemented in the form of a 30-metre black infinity pool that gives the impression of water lapping over the vines.
On the outdoor side of the hotel, one can find a wine and food store called Rare Hare. It is a casual dining place overlooking the vine-laced hills and the hotel’s striking monolithic structure that is covered with charred wood and black metal skin. Under the talented skill of Executive Chef Guy Stanaway, Rare Hare is a place where food and wine have a memorable affair to your palate.
The design power of the Jackalope Hotel Mornington Peninsula not only comes from its great alchemy narrative but also on its understanding of creating a perfect balance between the art, architecture, interior design, and its surrounding nature. As mentioned by the owner of the hotel, Louis Li, Jackalope has thought about the art from the beginning. “Art is not a spatial thing anymore, it’s a conceptual layer, forming a cohesive guest experience.”