Shape and color: two things that excite me when I am out photographing, and that come together so wonderfully in the iconic lifeguard stands of Miami Beach. Quirky and fun, but also built with a utilitarian safety purpose, these lifeguard stands take on even more personality as they age and become weather-beaten.
Each of these lifeguard stands is distinctive, and there are thirty five of them lining the beach for miles from South Pointe Park in the South to 87th Street in North Miami Beach. I learned this the hard way as I attempted to shoot most of them on very long, very hot, hikes in the sand (but it's hard to stop when you can see the next great design just a few hundred yards down the beach...)
The lifeguard stands of Miami Beach have become such a well-known feature of the Miami landscape that it seems like they have been there for a very long time. In fact, it was only after Hurricane Andrew destroyed the previous bland lifeguard stands in 1992, that Miami architect William Lane helped design and rebuild the destroyed lifeguard stands in the colorful, playful and architecturally interesting forms that we see today. After additional storms in 2005, towers by other designers were built, either through commissions by local business owners, or as a result of design competitions.
The designs show influences not only of the art deco movement for which much of Miami Beach is known, but also call to mind space-age cartoons like the Jetsons, miniature golf courses, and the general tropical vibe of Miami. While the colors, shapes and designs of the lifeguard stands vary, they all hang together so well, and I mean that literally, since I love hanging groups of them together on the wall
Every time I am in Miami Beach, I can't resist the pull of these objects, and go back to the beach looking for new ones, while also documenting the wear and tear on ones I have photographed previously. The salty sea air and weather really takes a toll on these structures since they directly bear the brunt of bad weather coming in off the ocean, and during my last trip, I noticed that some of the lifeguard stands I previously photographed were damaged and out of commission:
In 2016, several new lifeguard stands, again designed by William Lane, were introduced, featuring more weather-resistant features like impact windows and stronger materials.
While the new lifeguard stands look great, I really like those stands which show a bit of grittiness and real-world use:
Some of the older lifeguard stands have become so worn out, in fact, that they were recently auctioned off as public surplus. Now that would be a cool thing to have in the backyard!
The lifeguard stands at nearby Haulover Beach also seem to be influenced by the Miami Beach aesthetic:
I have become so enamored with the Miami lifeguard stands that I have decorated our dining room walls with my photos of them.
I have even made ceramic tile coasters of my photos, and give them as housewarming gifts.
A more extensive gallery of my lifeguard stand photos can be found in the Portfolio section of my website.
Which ones are your favorites?