The portable pre-fabricated prism of Escapod might be just the right size to fill
the contemporary luxury accommodation gap in South Australia’s scenic regions.
It was in preparing for a weekend getaway to the Barossa that Escapod co-founder and CEO Ryan Brown saw a gap in South Australia’s luxury accommodation market.
“I was doing my research and couldn’t find many contemporary offerings,” Brown says. “It was really all the old school B’n’Bs that have their own charm which is great, but I was looking for something more modern and contemporary.
“Dino [Vrynios, architect and Escapod co-director] and I started to talk about it, and at the same time were exposed to modular design and pre-fabrication,” he says. “We thought why don’t we bring the two together to create an accommodation product that is prefabricated, which allows us to bring it into regional areas.”
It’s four years since Brown and Vrynios set out on their journey to develop Escapod. Now the first of their prefabricated luxury accommodations has been installed at The Vineyard Retreat in McLaren Vale.
“The four-year gestation period of the development of the idea was critical,” Vrynios says. “Putting a transportable building into a premium location is not anything new, but we found that speaking to more people gave us more ideas, and every roadblock we hit forced us to think differently about the solution.”
It is a disarmingly charming space informed by deeply considered minimalist design. The interior’s bedroom, living room and kitchen flow into each other in an open plan, with a separated bathroom and storeroom adjoining, and three massive double-glazed windows sitting on three sides of the prism. It’s comfortable and finely finished, but the story is all about those windows, and their link to the outside world.
“The artwork is the window, really,” Vrynios says. “That’s the part of the experience that is amazing.
As a modular, moveable, pre-fabricated building, Escapod’s ingenuity is its ability to sit in any variety of scenic locale. From a vineyard to a beach to a forest to the red centre, this pod can do it all and fits the present trend of luxury accommodation to highlight beautiful settings rather than simply aim for gilded baroque opulence.
Asked whether other local luxury accommodation projects with a focus on natural immersion, such as the Southern Ocean Lodge, were an inspiration in this design, Vrynios says it was certainly a consideration and also helped in developing their business case for the project.
“It was a reference point for us in a lot of ways, because it gave us confidence that what we were endeavouring to do can work,” he says. “We knew that we were always going to have to reach a certain per-night price point. We know that they achieve that at the Southern Ocean Lodge in a location that is remote and exclusive, and incredibly experiential.”
Another feather to Escapod’s cap is its focus on sustainability, both in design and its capacity to be fully functional in an off-grid scenario. As a moveable, well insulated structure, the Escapod has a lighter footprint on the land than fully permanent constructions, and the capacity for it to be re-skinned to suit its environment can draw in the expertise and materials of the region it lands in.
“We have built it here locally,” Brown says. “All trades, inputs and materials in the building have been sourced locally, which was really important to us as well. It also reinforces the story of that place and makes it a far more genuine, authentic experience, which is critical, that it looks like it should belong.”
“It can’t look like an alien that’s been dropped into place,” Vrynios adds. “It needs to feel like it’s been anchored and belongs there.”
While the Escapod is built with luxury accommodation in mind, it has some parallels with size and full-service facilities of the tiny house movement. In the context of high property prices for first home buyers, could the Escapod be used as a home too?
“It is essentially a one-bedroom apartment,” Brown says. “It has everything you need to live, so people are actually very interested from that perspective… It’s not our focus, though, and we need to be clear about that. Our focus is about redefining regional tourism and to create that offering that there’s not enough of.”
Feature image: Sam Noonan