pint, orange, and green lifeguard tower

Miami Beach gets 36 Colorful New Lifeguard Towers

Designed by local architect William Lane, the flamboyant new structures are inspired by the resort town’s Art Deco and MiMo heritage.

When the City of Miami Beach needed an architect to replace 36 lifeguard towers stretching from South Pointe Park to 86th Street, the choice was obvious: William Lane. After all, Lane’s Miami-based firm had designed five lifeguard towers to replace those lost in Hurricane Andrew in 1992—plus the architect had worked on the design of South Pointe Park itself in 2009 (with landscape designers Hargreaves Associates and Savino & Miller Design Studio).

If lifeguard towers are strictly utilitarian in other locales, mere practicality will not do for Miami Beach, an urban resort known all over the world for its MiMo (Miami Modernist) and Art Deco architecture. So, in 2015, Lane set to work on six tower types, each with its own unique flavor. (He completed the job in 2019.) Some are angular and look like sunbursts, while some have swooping forms that evoke the futurist Googie style that’s part of Miami Beach’s midcentury vernacular. The colors are aptly resplendent—pink with green and orange accents, teal matched with royal blue and lime, dark purple with pale lavender and peach. Together, Lane notes, the colors suggest the LGBTQ+ pride flag, a nod to Miami Beach’s decades-long history as a gay haven. 

orange and yellow lifeguard tower
After Hurricane Andrew hit Miami Beach in 1992, William Lane Architect designed five lifeguard towers to replace those lost in the storm’s damage. Now, 30 years later, he has been tasked with 36 additional lifeguard towers that speak to the city’s Art Deco and midcentury modern heritage. TOP AND ABOVE COURTESY WILLIAM LANE ARCHITECT

As befits the work of an architect who studied with Rem Koolhaas and I. M. Pei, the towers are formally rigorous, yet they also feel spiritual, imbued with a life force and personality. “They are very much about animism and persona,” Lane notes, citing the Moai figures on Easter Island as an inspiration. “I was riffing on [Florida’s] shotgun houses, Cracker homes, and Key West architecture. I was trying to translate that basic wood construction into something painterly and sculptural, sort of like sentinels looking out to sea.” 

Purple lifeguard tower

Would you like to comment on this article? Send your thoughts to: [email protected]

More from Metropolis