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The colorful lifeguard stands of Miami Beach

Words by Tom Austin

South Beach was built on art and whimsy, and after the devastation of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, the City of Miami Beach rebounded with sentinels of artifice—five playful lifeguard towers designed by architect William Lane.

Photo credit: Martin Torres

The structures drew on influences spanning art deco, Shinto temples and the surreal architectural synthesis of Morris Lapidus’ Fontainebleau hotel.

Photo credit: Martin Torres

Lane even collaborated with artist Kenny Scharf, whose work is in the Whitney Museum of American Art, on a pink Jetsons-inspired tower, a faux spaceship complete with an antenna.

Photo credit: Martin Torres

“I was happy to design the 10th Street lifeguard stand with Bill Lane,” says Scharf. “It has become an iconic symbol of Miami Beach.”

Photo credit: Martin Torres

The original towers were celebrated in everything from The New York Times to the 1996 film The Birdcage

Photo credit: Martin Torres

After several years of construction, Lane’s 36 additional lifeguard stations—entailing six new designs—have finally been completed.

Photo credit: Martin Torres

The towers embrace the bright colors of tropical vegetation and, as they stand in a line along the beach, create a kind of architectural community. 

Photo credit: Martin Torres

Lane says: “They’re like monolithic moai figures on Easter Island...

Photo credit: Martin Torres

“...a transition between the ocean’s serenity and urban Miami Beach...

Photo credit: Martin Torres

“ a sometimes otherworldly landscape.”

Photo credit: Martin Torres

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