William Lane’s Iconic Lifeguard Towers

Bill Lane

Bill Lane

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When you visit the sandy, sun-soaked beaches of Miami, it’s impossible to miss the vibrant, artfully-designed lifeguard towers that are counted among the most beloved icons of South Florida. With their eye-catching color schemes, unique shapes, and unmistakably Art Deco-inspired aesthetic, the lifeguard towers of Miami Beach and South Beach represent the melding of art and architecture – the signature stylings of architect William Lane.

William Lane is an award-winning architect who has been making his mark on Miami since the early 1990s, capturing the city’s one-of-a-kind culture, history, and personality in the dozens of beach lifeguard towers, city parks, and numerous structures. And while he is credited with many of the city’s design highlights, including South Pointe Park, Sunny Isles Beach Front Park, and the Freehand Hotel, many locals hold a special spot in their heart for the Miami Beach lifeguard stands.

One of David Lane's lifeguard stands
One of David Lane's lifeguard stands

Transforming the Beachscapes of Miami

After Hurricane Andrew destroyed several of the lifeguard stands dotting Miami Beach, the city called upon William Lane and his design team to create replacements. Almost immediately, the five lifeguard stands became an illustration of the community’s revitalization and cultural renaissance.

One of the most impressive aspects of the towers is that they were, and still are, quintessentially Miami in every way. And as Lane tells it, virtually every element of their design was inspired by the city itself. He says, “The lifeguard towers were influenced not only by Miami’s midcentury and art deco architecture but also by its Caribbean culture and the use of vibrant colors derived from the natural beauty of the tropics.”

Two decades later, the City of Miami Beach again reached out to Lane. This time, he was asked to revisit his original vision for the lifeguard tower project, building upon it to design several prototypes to replace three dozen towers from South Pointe Park to 86th Street. Dramatic shapes and vivid colors guarantee that each tower immediately stands out on Miami’s white sand beaches, drawing the eye and making an attention-grabbing statement. William Lane’s project page for the towers likens them to “the Moai figures on Easter Island,” in that “they are an expression for identity and culture on Miami Beach.”

 David Lane's pink lifeguard stand up close
David Lane's pink lifeguard stand up close

Architecture Inspired by the Heart and Soul of the City

Snapping a photo of one of Lane’s lifeguard stands is somewhat a rite of passage for locals and visitors alike. But for Lane himself, the more than 40 towers represent much of what he’s come to love about Miami, including his friendships with fellow Miami creators who served as a source of inspiration. He explains:

When I first moved to Miami, I had the pleasure of becoming friends with Morris Lapidus, the architect of the Fountainebleau Hotel, Eden Roc Hotel, and the Lincoln Road follies. His use of contemporary forms mixed with bold geometries and even baroque elements inspired me to push boundaries that other designers may not have.

In addition to the towers, Lane is particularly proud of South Point Park and Sunny Isles Beach Front Park, which he describes as an “homage to the expressive and thematic mid-century motels that have all but disappeared to make room for the skyscrapers that now occupy A1A in Sunny Isles.”

Side view of lifeguard stand
Side view of lifeguard stand

Living a Beautifully-Designed Life as a True Miami Local

As any Miami local will tell you, living in this lush, culturally-rich, and diverse city presents you with the opportunity to seize life in a way that no other locale can. For William Lane, that means making the most of everything that this incredible community has to offer – and soaking up every second as a Miami resident.

When asked about his favorite things to do in Miami, Lane has no shortage of highlights to share:

On the weekends, I enjoy biking up and down Miami Beach’s paved beach walk or kayaking to different islands in Biscayne Bay. There are numerous small islands that were famously wrapped in pink by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude in 1983. All of these uninhabited islands offer a unique natural experience in the middle of a bustling metropolis and can be easily reached by kayaks or paddleboards.

He adds that art museums are among his favorite places to visit in Miami, especially the newly-reopened Rubell Museum in Allapattah. Right across the street, he nearly always makes a stop at the Hometown Bar-B-Que, which Lane passionately declares to be “the best barbeque in Miami.”

That being said, don’t ask him to choose just one Miami restaurant as his all-time favorite. With a diverse palate and a marked appreciation for international cuisine, Lane can easily list several restaurants that he would recommend any day of the week. For Peruvian, he heads to Merkado 31, Sazon is his spot of choice for traditional Cuban cuisine, and his go-to burger spot is Burgers and Shakes. When out-of-towners ask where to go in Miami for the best food, Lane names North Beach as his all-time favorite foodie-friendly neighborhood.

Of course, when you spend your days working as hard as this acclaimed Miami architect, it’s important that you dedicate the same passion for relaxing. Lane can often be found enjoying the calm atmosphere and crystal-clear waters at North Beach or spending time with friends at the Freehand Hotel (which he had a hand in designing). Between the property’s tropical gardens, handcrafted cocktails, and seasonal, farm-to-table menu, Lane believes there are few better places in Miami to spend an afternoon.

David Lane's lifeguard stand up close
David Lane's lifeguard stand up close

Learn More about One of Miami’s Most Beloved Architects

If you’ve never experienced William Lane’s famous Miami Beach lifeguard towers in person, now is the time – especially now that we’ve hopefully piqued your interest. For some locals, seeing every one of the now-dozens across Miami beaches is considered a residential achievement of sorts. Colorful, eclectic, and as unique as the city they call home, the Miami Beach lifeguard towers are a stunning embodiment of Miami’s signature spirit.

Find more details about William Lane and his design firm’s projects across Miami.

Read More:

Miami's Architectural Guide
Discover Miami's Retro Hotels and MIMO Architecture
Tour 20 Architecturally Significant Buildings In Downtown Miami
Miami Beach’s Art Deco Hotels

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