Project Feature

The Invisible Lodge, Then and Now

Friendly Beaches, TAS, Australia

Sophie Sisko

Named ‘The Invisible Lodge’ for the regulations which surrounded the design, the Friendly Beaches Lodge is sympathetic with it’s environment.

Predicting the longevity of architecture can be difficult when we consider the ever-evolving trends of our society. When town planner, Joan Masterman, and architect, Ken Latona, (Latona Masterman and Associates) envisioned Friendly Beaches Lodge, they were not only suggesting the construction of a building, but challenging and redefining the norms of both architecture and tourism in Tasmania at the time. Decades later, Friendly Beaches Lodge is awarded first place for Enduring Architecture at the 2018 Tasmanian Architecture Awards, demonstrating its minimalist and rugged form has only improved with time, and an acquired fondness from all who have passed through its doors.

At the time of construction in 1992, Ken and then-business partner Joan’s design of Friendly Beaches Lodge was at the forefront of holistically sustainable architecture. This lodge came after their success in designing Tasmania’s first eco-tourism huts in the Cradle Mountain region. Even so, there was major dispute from politicians and conservation groups at the time, doubting the potential for the privatized commercially-run tourism venture that Latona Masterman and Associates had in mind. “It was a miracle Friendly Beaches was ever built,” states Joan. Finally, permits were passed under the conditions that the lodge be built on already disturbed land and must not be visible from the beach, earning the lodge its longstanding nickname of ‘The Invisible Lodge.’

The project was met with resistance when proposed in the 1990s, and a condition of allowing it to progress was that the lodge be built on already disturbed land.

Architect Ken Laytona’s design moves with the site’s topography, while the simple timber cladding blends in to the surrounding bush.

In the end, all apprehensions were soon resolved, and the lodge has since been awarded by The Royal Australian Institute of Architecture for its sustainability, continuing to set the benchmark for eco-tourism in Tasmania and beyond.

The Invisible Lodge is sympathetic with it’s environment.

The purpose of the lodge is to provide shelter for walkers on a four-day guided tour of the Freycinet Peninsula, operated to this day by Joan and her highly praised team of guides. The intention is to offer walkers an understated but comfortable place of rest where they can experience a closeness to nature with minimal interventions to the site’s ecology. Amongst the fragrant native flora, Friendly Beaches Lodge humbly welcomes hikers from the trail with a rustic warmth and charm. Comprising of primarily Tasmanian sourced timber, the almost charred appearance of the hut camouflages the structure from the approaching eye.

The lodge is warm and welcoming for hikers who undertake the guided walk through the National Park.

Family-style meals are shared at the large timber dining table, facilitating personal connections as well as connection with the land.

The communal areas’ split levels follow the natural slope of the land, where the large timber dining table hosts family-style meals separated by a central bagged-brick fire place to the lower living area. Each space enlarged by the expansive sliding glass doors that beam with natural light and share views of the surrounding bush. Off these spaces are the sleeping areas which serve as blissful nooks of privacy for guests to truly embrace the solitude of the environment. Joan’s appreciation of the arts is evident with works displayed throughout the lodge adding a sense of sophistication and home.

The Friendly Beaches Lodge embodies the principle of design that touches the earth lightly.

To “touch the earth lightly,” is a principal of Australian architect and former guest of the lodge, Glenn Murcutt, and something that The Friendly Beaches Lodge bestows in its presence. Ken’s restrained architecture displays a transparency of the lodge’s functions and allows visitors to engage directly with the site. Water and energy are collected on site by rain-water tanks and solar panels, this covers the cooking, cleaning, heating and power usage of the lodge. The pot-bellied stoves and fire place are fueled with fallen timber from around the property, and the toilets are self-composting.

The Friendly Beaches Lodge is awarded first place for Enduring Architecture at the 2018 Tasmanian Architecture Awards.

A revolving connection of resources from the earth, to the earth, celebrates the significance of being in a place of such raw natural beauty as The Freycinet Peninsula. Elements of luxury do grace the guests of The Friendly Beaches Lodge, as they nightly enjoy skillfully cooked meals and sleeping on Egyptian cotton sheets, but the overall experience is one of honest simplicity. “I really believe people go to these places to see the places,” Ken told The New York Times in 2001. “They don’t go there to see fancy buildings. The architecture can be quite humble.”

The lodge is comfortable yet humble, in keeping with what draws guests to the Freycinet National Park – raw, undisturbed natural beauty.

A visionary project in both Tasmania’s tourism and architecture, Latona Masterman and Associates set an archetype for each industry alike. In its unmodified state, Friendly Beaches Lodge is commended for its continual service to the community, proving without doubt the integrity and passion that formulated its design.

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