In one of the most daring and avant-garde moves in the hotel industry to date, the $40 million Jackalope Hotel was launched in April 2017 in the heart of Australia’s Mornington Peninsula wine region. On an 11-hectare site spanning the Willow Creek vineyard, Jackalope consists of: forty-six guest rooms and suites; destination dining restaurant Doot Doot Doot; meeting and event spaces Jenka and Jackyak; and the surreal and eclectic Flaggerdoot, the hotel’s signature wine and cocktail bar.
Fuelled by a desire to merge his love of film and the arts with his family hotel legacy, owner Louis Li’s vision was to create a most unique escape. Crafting an otherworldly experience, rich with narrative and imagination was core to the site’s placemaking brief: fuse the owner’s penchant for the avant-garde with art, local design, exclusive dining and compelling storytelling to create an experience, all the while performing the functional role of helping patrons seamlessly navigate the property. Importantly, all elements of the experience needed to feel cohesive and connected to a genuine sense of place, taking guests on an immersive journey through dramatic statements and intimate shared experiences.
In tribute to the transformative nature of the mythical Jackalope creature—part cute, part fierce—and the site’s core business of viticulture, Studio Ongarato developed a site narrative based on the concept of alchemy, a metaphor for winemaking. This then set the brief for the architects, landscapers and art commissions to follow to ensure the guest experience mirrored the unique oeuvre of the site.
The narrative was expressed throughout: each step through the space, a step in the alchemy process, from the distillation theme evident in Flaggerdoot bar the “The Alchemist’s Workshop” with its white neon gas cloud lighting installation snaking across the ceiling referencing the stages of alchemy, to the 10,000 suspended glowing amber lightbulb installation depicting the stage of fermentation in fine dining restaurant, Doot Doot Doot. This extended to the wayfinding system complete with alchemical symbols and elements integrated into guest corridor ceilings and room numbering, with gold follies amongst the external wayfinding.
The narrative further provided the lens for local artists commissioned to create responses, including Emily Floyd, creator of the iconic Jackalope sculpture at the porte¬cochère. The identity for Jackalope embodies the hybrid nature of the creature—seeing the world through opposing lenses, creating hybrid states. The Jackalope brand symbol is formed through the intersection of two layers, in a rendering reminiscent of a Rorschach ink blot. The symbol’s layers adapt to each hotel, creating a site-specific identity system; for example,The Mornington vineyard inspired the theme “Alchemy,” so the symbol is gold. Every touchpoint was considered in a new, contemporary way, requiring collaboration to achieve innovation in format and materiality.
The outcome is a true expression of the client’s philosophy. Jackalope has had a far-reaching cultural impact on the hotel and hospitality industry in Australia and abroad for its bold narrative and design-driven approach, enjoying sell-out bookings since opening for the hotel and F&B offerings alike.
"A seamlessly coordinated art, branding and signage program oozing moodiness. Cheers!"
"I appreciate the rich layering and variety of storytelling happening between the environment and all guest touch-points; the materiality and finishes were thoughtfully executed without unnecessary adornment. All this, accomplished with a playful, unexpected and disruptive sense of humor that evokes an energetic and engaging personality."
Fabio Ongarato (creative director), Ben Kluger (design director), John Wilson (senior designer), Sarah Cope (project director)
Carr (architect); Taylor Cullity Lethlean (landscape architect); Emily Floyd, Rolf Sachs, Andrew Hazewinkel (artists); Pascal Gomes McNabb (F&B consultant); Zuster Furniture (furniture); Jan Flook Lighting (lighting)