CITY OF MIAMI BEACH LIFE GUARD TOWERS

Miami Beach, Fl.

In 1992 South Florida suffered the devastating effects Hurricane Andrew. At the time it was the most destructive storm in US history. The beach was in need of recovery. The ecology was damaged and the community was feeling vulnerable. It was a low point at the end of an era of beach erosion, economic distress and cultural decay.  At that time five original lifeguard tower prototypes were designed to bring the beach back into the hearts and minds of its citizens, and to help open area back up to potential visitors. Twenty five years later those original lifeguard stands have been rebuilt and expanded upon in the introduction of six updated models to be distributed along the shoreline in 36 locations.

The towers play a vital and civic role architecturally. They are critically functional for emergency beach responders by providing outposts for the city’s Ocean Rescue. However, the tower’s also take that presence a step further by providing the shoreline with a unique formation of characters. Much like the Moai figures on Easter Island, they provide an expression for the identity and culture of the region. Found withinthe 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. Therefore the towers are activators of public place, in this case of the beach itself. Unlike military watchtowers, they host lifeguards that will protect and serve - and at the extreme, save a life.

The detailing pays close attention to the environmental and programmatic restrictions. Marine grade lumber posts are cross braced by aluminum. Located under the raised platforms is a custom storage box for two long boards for the lifeguards on duty. Atop the platform the wood sided walls utilize impact resistant windows – a first in the country for lifeguard stands. Each tower is furnished with a stairway and roof overhang to protect the balcony from the sun and enhance the lookout. In addition, each tower exhibits the beach warning flag system. At the same token they subliminally communicate to the all who visit:  we’re at your service and welcome.