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Lifeguard tower at Redondo Beach, California

Lifeguard towers are used to watch and supervise swimmers in order to prevent drownings and other dangers. Lifeguards scan for trouble from the structures, which vary from beach bungalows by the ocean to poolside towers. Lifeguard towers are also used to spot sharks and other threats.[1]

The towers have featured in television shows including Baywatch. Their construction is sometimes paid for with fundraisers,[2] and their operation and staffing is subject to funding availability.[3] Design contests have challenged architects to offer their visions of the structures.

Contents

History

An enclosed life guard tower at Ala Moana Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Reggie Jones, 77 and the "oldest lifeguard at Jones Beach" in 2004 reflected on the beach's history and his work, "From his wooden lifeguard tower." [4] He remembered, "when everything was closed on Sundays -- the blue laws -- and most families had one car and there were no downtown shopping malls. For 25 cents you got in the car and took the kids to the beach. This was the poor man's Riviera." He wore the "itchy" one-piece woolen lifeguard suit "instead of the Tommy Hilfiger trunks that are today's standard issue."[4] Fashions of beachgoers also changed with "The girls are wearing dental floss" as opposed to the dresses that he remembered being worn.[4] Jones Beach gets more visitors annually than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined with 8 million people visiting in 2003, a steep drop from the 13.3 million who visited in 1970.[4]

In the arts

Lifeguard in action at a Ocean City, Maryland beach.

Architect Frank Gehry designed a lifeguard tower into a house as part of a remodel in Venice Beach, California in 1985.[5]

In 1988 a gallery commissioned "14 of the world's best-known architects to design lifeguard towers, those familiar fixtures that protect lifeguards from the elements and provide landmarks to help swimmers remember where they put their towels." The designers included Stanley Tigerman, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, Charles Moore, Aldo Rossi, Hans Hollein, Antoine Predock and Cesar Pelli and were given specifications including 360-degree visibility, vandal-proofing and other requirements as well as a hypothetical budget of $17,000 for their designs.[6] The "superstar" West Coast architects were part of an exhibit of drawings and models of proposals for designer lifeguard towers in 1990.[7]

A similar contest was held in 2004 in Miami Beach with 25 local architects. The contest was organized by Jeremy Calleros Gauger, a graduate student at the University of Miami School of Architecture, and the designs were displayed at the Ocean Beach Auditorium. The winners announced were a functional cube with louvers and a modified surfboard design. A "striking" design called Plank earned an honorable because "there had to be space for a lifeguard to change out of a wet bathing suit."[8][9]

In popular culture

South Beach, Miami

A May 21, 2006 Family Guy episode featured Stewie trying to destroy his rival by blowing up the lifeguard tower.[10]

References

  1. ^ "At around 11 a.m., water safety officers from the Kekaha lifeguard tower had confirmed the sighting. They spotted the reported whale slowly drifting some 300 yards off the point." http://www.kauaiworld.com/articles/2009/02/10/news/kauai_news/doc499129ab3c873126071696.txt
  2. ^ Gina McGalliard Bash for new DM lifeguard tower this Saturday Feb 5, 2009 http://www.delmartimes.net/news/253516-bash-for-new-dm-lifeguard-tower-this-saturday
  3. ^ Lifeguard tower to close as Palm Beach County budget cuts reach beach: Tower will be left empty as lifeguards join efforts to stretch public services. September 30, 2007 South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
  4. ^ a b c d Marcelle S. Fischler Long Island Journal; At 75, Jones Beach, Past, Present and Future August 15, 2004 New York Times [1]
  5. ^ Joseph Giovannini In L.A., the Unconventional is Often the Rule of Thumb Jan 6, 1985, New York Times News Service, Chicago Tribune (preview) [2]
  6. ^ Patricia Leigh Brown Cowabunga! Lifeguard Towers as Art July 14, 1988 New York Times
  7. ^ To The Rescue- Architects offer the world a better (well, different lifeguard tower) March 7, 1990 St. Louis Post-Dispatch page 1D (preview) [3]
  8. ^ Linda Lee CURRENTS: DESIGN; In Miami, a Contest for Best Lifeguard Roost December 2, 2004 New York Times [4]
  9. ^ A slide of one of the lifeguard tower designs from the Miami competition New York Times website [5]
  10. ^ Stewie B. Goode/Bango Was His Name O/Stu & Stewie's Excellent Adventure Episode synopsis New York Times [6]
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