Watts Towers

Looking like something that came out of some freaky futuristic movie, the Watts towers are a collection of 17 different structures that are all connected. Located in the Watts community in Los Angeles, the towers are today considered a historical landmark and is a big tourist attraction for architects from all over the world. I once visited the towers for an assignment that my roommate had which I decided to tag along with. Even though it was in the scorching heat, seeing the towers were definitely worth it.

From a distance, the towers look like they are covered in pieces of candy. Yet, really the towers are decorated with found objects such as bottle fragments, ceramic tiles, mirrors, broken pottery, figurines, and much more. If you look closely at the artifacts in the sculpture, you can find interesting and recognizable soft drink bottles like 7 Up, Squirt, and more from the 1930s through the 1950s, still bearing the logo. They are decorated with approximately 100,000 ornamental fragments. The towers were designed and build by Sabato Rodia who was an Italian immigrant construction worker and tile mason. The crazy thing is that not only did he take his precious time building the towers over a span of 33 years, from 1921-1954, but he also did it all on his own with no fancy equipment or predetermined design.  Most of the towers’ framework is made from rebar from the nearby railroad tracks, and alongside the pacific electric railway. This piece is literally comprised of artifacts from the city, making it a more meaningful representation of LA’s history.

At one point, the city of los Angeles condemned the structure and ordered it all to be destroyed because of a fire that burned down Rodia’s bungalow. The demolition of the towers was in affect for a while until a group of people that formed the “Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts” were able to negotiate with the city, allowing for a test to establish the safety of the towers. For the test, cables were attached to the towers, and a crane was used to apply 10,000lbs of force on the towers until the crane experienced mechanical failure. This established that the towers were safe and had no reason to be torn down. Since then, architects from all over the world have visited the site, learning from the stability and endurance of the towers.

3 Comments

  1. Kirsten Miller

    I think the Watts Towers are extraordinary for reasons extending beyond their aesthetic appeal and amazing strength. The fact that the threat of demolition brought a community of people together to form a committee and fight against it proves that there is a cultural significance rooted in this landmark. The people of the region felt a sense of pride in Rodia’s creation and wanted to preserve the towers which were unique to them.

  2. Anaid Gonzalez

    I’ve lived in LA my entire life and have never gone there, but now that I know the history behind the towers I will plan to go out there soon, but on a day when its not very hot!

    Anaid Gonzalez

  3. Elvin Mabborang

    Wish I could see the photo in the actual post as opposed to just the preview, I think that specific photo of the towers look really dope! Great juxtaposition between the picturesque sky and the archaic, inorganic, rusty towers. The gates are also interesting because they look like they are in a balance between being rusty/dirty and pristine. Ultimately I dig this photo because I get a demented Disneyland sort of vibe from it.

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