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BREATHING ROOM

The best seats at the beach

September 16, 2004|Michael T. Jarvis

Astrong wind off the Santa Monica coast propels boats at full sail as kites dance above the shoreline. At a nearby grove of palms, two musical lifeguard chairs perform a resonating duet for wind. The chairs, one aqua blue, the other sea green, are too far from the water to be used for lifesaving, yet somehow they seem to belong near the strand.

Walk out of Shutters Hotel, take off your shoes and socks and climb up on the Singing Beach Chairs. Artist Douglas Hollis installed the wind-powered functional art in the ankle-deep sand of Santa Monica Beach in 1987. Five aluminum flue pipes extend 14 feet toward the sky behind each of the 8-foot-high chairs. On a windy day the pipes combine soothing tones that resemble the hum of a small airplane, the cooing of doves or the drone of a didgeridoo.

The oversize chairs also offer a regal platform for guitar-strumming troubadours or those with "Baywatch" rescue fantasies. While some listeners ascend the throne while wearing headphones, others believe the ocean sounds and the pipes are the perfect combination. The Singing Beach Chairs offer a perfect passageway to nature with sounds that will linger. And like the wind, and the beach, they're free.

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-- Michael T. Jarvis

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