VALE KEN LATONA
It is with great sadness that we inform the membership of the passing of Ken Latona. In honour of their dear friend and colleague, Jonathan Buist and Dayna Trevaskis have shared the below tribute.
It is with great admiration, respect and fondness that we write to honour our dear friend, mentor and former colleague, Architect and Tasmanian tourism legend Ken Latona, who passed away on the 30th May 2023.
Ken was a passionate bushwalker, with a love for Tasmania that inspired his interest in niche tourism development. The story of his success in architecture is intertwined with his unique position as developer, designer and operator of celebrated Tasmanian tourism businesses Cradle Mountain Huts walk (est. 1987), and The Freycinet Experience walk (est. 1992), multiday guided walking experiences that he built together with business partner and town planner, Joan Masterman. In 1997 Ken and Joan split the business. Ken retained Cradle Huts, and went on to establish the highly successful Bay of Fires Walk, featuring his now iconic work the Bay of Fires Lodge.
Each of the walks received much international and national acclaim, including a series of local architecture awards, with the first ever Tasmanian architecture award for Sustainable Architecture awarded to the Friendly Beaches Lodge (1993), followed by a commendation for the Cradle Mountain Huts Kia Ora Hut (1998) and yet more gongs locally and nationally for the Bay of Fires Lodge (2000).
In each of these enterprises, Ken’s sensitivity to the subtleties of the unique natural and social environments of each location, drove him to design and build a series of elegant yet simple, discreet ecologically-sustainable off-grid lodges and huts that are still lovingly occupied as bush homes-away-from-home for hundreds of bushwalking guests and guides each year. The buildings continue to contribute meaningfully to an ongoing dialogue of what is considered appropriate development within National Parks and other sensitive environments.
In their simple forms, use of natural materials and discreet siting, these buildings serve to remind us of a way of being and dwelling in the natural environment that is quiet, grounded and connected to nature. For guides and staff, working and dwelling in each of Ken’s buildings continues to be a privilege and pleasure that is always looked forward to at the beginning of each season.
Though most will know him for his pioneering architecture, those who knew him closely will remember him for much more. Ken was an incredibly generous person, full of life with a hint of larrikin but with an inborn sensitivity to the natural environment.
He understood the importance of helping people find their own connection with nature, themselves and others, and this was foundational to the way he saw his purpose in the world. He knew that architecture in cohesion with its environment can have a profound impact on the lives of those who encounter it.
Through his commitment to the world of tourism and architecture he has left an indelible mark on our state, Tasmania. His innovative designs and environmental consciousness set new standards for sustainable tourism, transforming landscapes and leaving a legacy that will continue to enrich the experiences of countless travellers.
His infectious enthusiasm, wit, and warmth have touched the lives of all those fortunate enough to have known and worked with him. For many the memories of working alongside Ken are embedded as some of the best memories in life and his friendship the most enduring.