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Miami Vibes

New York-based photographer Tommy Kwak celebrates the picturesque beauty of Lifeguard Towers in Miami Beach, Florida.

Lifeguard towers are among Florida’s most popular architecture after the iconic Art Deco buildings on the streets of SoBe (South Beach). What these designs have in common is that they were born out of two hurricanes that hit this southeastern U.S. state: the 1926 hurricane and the 1992 Hurricane Andrew. The Tropical Deco style, a Floridian variant of French Art Deco, is the colorful charm of the American Riviera. The destroyed towers of Miami Beach were redesigned in 1995 by the architect William Lane, who designed five of them, offering a cultural and urban revitalization of South Beach. In 2015, the city asked him for thirty new wooden structures that he imagined with acidic colors. At the sight of the pink tower (17th Street) in 2019, Tommy Kwak, who has been exploring the transience of landscapes and natural forms for fifteen years, decided to photograph them one by one for their unique features.

Art and design at the beach

These kaleidoscopic creations express “the optimistic futurism of Art Deco, the comfort of Cracker style and the luminosity of South Florida’s tropical fauna. Some look like carousels, while others have the look of semaphores, the defense posts established on the coastline in the 19th century. Tommy Kwak’s collected images celebrate their eccentric shapes with rainbow palettes, giving them a new and graphic perspective. His work and his series quickly seduced galleries and collectors, garnering several American awards in the process. And a beautiful book, featuring some forty photographs, is coming out at the end of the year. Today, more than a hundred Lifeguard Towers are installed along the coastline over thirteen kilometers, from South Point Park to 86th Street. Perfect for a colorful stroll in the warm Floridian waters under the azure sun.

Nathalie Dassa