Miami Beach lifeguard towers reinvented

Miami Beach lifeguard towers reinvented

William Lane Architect reimagines Miami Beach lifeguard towers through bright colours and abstractly anthropomorphic shapes

The architecture studio of William Lane has reimagined Miami Beach lifeguard towers. The architects offer a new take on the iconic structures, which are typically spread across the sandy stretches of the peninsula’s seaside expanses, adding a splash of colour, abstractly anthropomorphic shapes and a sprinkle of fun. Sitting between ocean and sand dunes and mixing with the blue horizon, white sands, rainbow collection of umbrellas, and swarms of beach enthusiasts, the structures are both utilitarian and playfully uplifting, through their clever, balanced design. 

The 36 newly completed towers encompass six original silhouettes and combinations of six colour palettes. They are placed along a seven-mile stretch, from the southern tip of Miami Beach to the northern edge of 87th Street. With a compact 260 sq ft footprint, they all sit about 2.4m above ground and feature an overhang of around 1.2m that provides much-needed shade for the users. The timber structures are topped by a contoured standing-seam aluminium roof. This can easily roll and bend to provide ‘unique profiles’, the architects say, adding to the character of each tower. 

green lifeguard tower, one of a new series of Miami Beach lifeguard towers by William Lane Architect

Aesthetics and functionality meet in these small but impactful structures, which serve as so much more than a base for lifeguards and their duties, in their landmark, and even cult, status as large-scale beachside objects. ’They are activators of public space – in this case of the beach. They are anthropomorphic and provide the shoreline with a unique formation of characters that are an expression for the identity and culture of the region,’ says Lane. 

’Through the complex strata of their forms – biomorphic, techno-fluid, phosphorescent, retro-future and even art deco – the Miami Beach lifeguard towers create a layered and lyrical set of cultural artefacts that are specific to a place, yet universal in meaning,’ the architect continues.

This is not the first time Lane has focused on the region’s lifeguard tower design. When he first moved to Miami, back in 1995, he was called on to create a series of five of them – one was realised in collaboration with artist Kenny Scharf. Quirky and emblematic of Miami Beach, the lifeguard towers soon became a much-loved part of local community life. This new series aspires to do the same, and a new book by photographer Tommy Kwak, Lifeguard Towers: Miami, documents the project in its completion. §

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