Arts & Entertainment

30 Years after Andrew: Miami Beach transformed by lifeguard towers

By Emilio J. Lopez

Miami, Aug 5 (EFE).- Architect William Lane drew on South Florida’s architectural heritage when Miami Beach hired his firm to design new lifeguard towers to replace the ones destroyed when Hurricane Andrew slammed the area in August 1992.

The 36 towers distributed along the beachfront, which extends 11.5 km (7 mi) from its northern tip to South Point Park, are “a great example of using public space,” Lane told Efe.

“They’ve really become, I guess, somewhat iconic for Miami Beach and Miami itself,” the architect said in an interview. “I look at them as being personas. I look at them as being animations.”

“They’re all on the beach side of the dune, so they are a really wonderful complement to the tropical city, the white tropical city, on the other side,” he said in his Miami Beach studio.

After 15 years in New York, Lane relocated to the United States Virgin Islands in the late 1980s and from there to Miami in 1992, acquiring in the process an understanding of tropical architecture.

In 1995, Miami Beach commissioned his firm to design five small lifeguard stands to replace the ones wiped out by Andrew.

Lane delivered brightly colored structures inspired by existing examples of small architecture, “whether it be food stands or surveillance towers or rocket ships or beach buggies.”

“They had a lot of different influences, but I wanted at that time to imbue them with what I thought was a tropical essence,” Lane recalled. “I looked at things like Caribbean style architecture, a lot of the Caribbean colors, the Art Deco here in Miami. I looked at a lot of the mid-century modern architecture that is in the Miami area.”

When the city turned to Lane again in 2015, they commissioned him to create six prototypes for lifeguard towers and to devise six different color palettes for each prototype.

Authorities told the architect they wanted designs that transformed “a utilitarian space” into something “with an added cultural significance” akin to that of the Paris Metro.

But despite their cheerful and even whimsical look, the towers were designed and built with threat of tropical weather in mind.

Each tower rests on “legs” and can be moved out of harm’s way using a bulldozer in case of a hurricane, Lane said. EFE


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