La Jolla Shores’ Picturesque Lifeguard Tower

La Jolla Shores Lifeguard New Tower

If you’ve been down to La Jolla Shores within the past year or two, you may have noticed the La Jolla Shores lifeguard tower gracing the beach. RNT Architects, the same firm that redesigned the Japanese Friendship Garden, handled the project along with design collaborator Hector M. Perez. Even though the project was finished in May of 2013, most people don’t know the unseen consideration that went into the project to make it the perfect fit with the community’s environmental and personality needs. 

The Beginnings of the La Jolla Shores Lifeguard Tower

The handsome but unassuming tower is the result of careful thinking from designers and architects about the tower’s function as part of the community and beach. Updating regional towers like the La Jolla Shores lifeguard tower was firstly a practical decision to meet the new needs of the growing La Jolla community. San Diego City Council wanted to ensure a greater visibility of La Jolla Shores beach now that the beach has more visitors to protect, as well as meeting contemporary construction codes.

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Says architect Ralph Roesling (F.A.I.A), “In our first meetings with the community, we brought all kinds of little models, trying to figure out which one was going to work. But then we brought one model which was essentially a stair that went up in the air with a little shack at the end.”

La Jolla apparently knew what it wanted when it saw it. With the lofty tower’s sparse design, “It’s almost like it’s not there at all,” Roesling continues. “We found a way to express this idea of ascension up, and almost like this angel idea of hovering over the beach, and looking, and protecting everyone.”

Doing Less Rather Than More

Hector M. Perez notes the La Jolla Shores lifeguard station’s seamless transition into the space around it, observing that “From the perspective of a swimmer or surfer, looking back to the lifeguard station, it becomes almost nonexistent or transparent.”

Project manager Rick Espana says “To me personally, it’s more about the mark we removed from the demolition of the original building [than adding a new building].”

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Roesling explains the project as, “Initially it was controversial. There were people that were very mystified with what we were trying to do with the project, and I think as time went by, people got the idea ‘Oh, this is about doing less rather than more.'”
Maintaining a clear view of the beach for the surrounding community was a high priority for the architects, which shows up the final design.  “La Jolla Shores represents this beach that has almost like an eternal quality to it, one of few beaches you can look at and probably see what it looked like a hundred years ago or two hundred years ago,” said Espana.

The station, floating above the sand doesn’t interrupt any of that timeless beauty. “This long beach, a panoramic view of the ocean, and because of that we knew we had to respect that quality,” he finishes.

Perez finally noted, “In a very poetic way of thinking about the project, the project is just one more layer of geology that has erupted and has presented itself with very practical and functional reasons.”

Swing by La Jolla Shores (maybe visit the Scripps Coastal Meander Trail) and tell us what you think!

All images and GIFs made by Katherine Wood via GIPHY, taken from RNT Architect’s video La Jolla Shores Lifeguard Station.

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Katherine Wood

Katherine Wood

Katherine Wood contributed to La Jolla Blue Book and worked at the Find It La Jolla Visitor Center from 2015 -2016. Her favorite La Jolla attractions are watching the seals and the Madison Gallery.

3 thoughts on “La Jolla Shores’ Picturesque Lifeguard Tower

    • Yes, Edward it was completed in 2013 and had subsequent upgrades to it for a “glaring” problem in 2014. The original architects released a video documenting the project a few months ago so we decided to re-visit and introduce the tower to a new audience.

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