CITY OF MIAMI BEACH LIFE GUARD TOWERS

Miami Beach, FL

In 1992 South Florida suffered the devastating effects of Hurricane Andrew. At the time it was the most destructive storm in US history and our region was in need of recovery. Much of the natural ecology and building construction was damaged or even destroyed. It was a low point at the end of an era that included systemic beach erosion, economic distress and cultural disenfranchisement.  At that time William Lane approached the City of Miami Beach to commission five original lifeguard tower prototypes to bring the beach back into the hearts and minds of its citizens as well as potential visitors. Twenty five years later the original lifeguard stands have been rebuilt and expanded with the introduction of six updated models to be distributed along the shoreline in 36 locations. The original towers played a vital and civic role architecturally. They are relied upon by Emergency Beach Responders by providing outposts for the city’s Ocean Rescue. However, the towers go a step further by providing the shoreline with a unique formation of elements. Much like the Moai figures on Easter Island, they are an expression for identity and culture on Miami Beach. Within the abstract detailing of the roof lines, contours, colors and materials, is the optimistic futurism of Art Deco, the local comfort of Cracker Style, and the brightness of South Florida’s tropical fauna. The towers are activators of public space and in this case of the beach itself. Unlike military watchtowers, they host lifeguards that will protect and serve. At the extreme, they can help save a life. Given the opportunity to revisit the towers, the new detailing pays close attention to environmental and programmatic design. Providing support at the base to prevent overturn is marine grade lumber cross braced by aluminum bars. Located under the raised platforms are custom storage boxes housing two long boards for the lifeguards on duty. Atop the platform are wood sided walls with integrated impact resistant windows – a first in the country for lifeguard stands. Each tower is furnished with a custom designed roof overhang to protect the balcony from the sun and to enhance the lookout. In addition, each tower exhibits the beach warning flag system. The flags seem right at home with the alternating color schemes. Fittingly the flags and the towers subliminally communicate to the all who visit:  we are at your service and welcome.