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  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

The Watts Towers built by Sabato Rodia

The entire site of the Watts Towers with its towers, structures, sculptures, pavement and walls were designed and built solely by Sabato ("Simon" or "Sam") Rodia (1879 or 1886–1965).

Rodia was an Italian immigrant construction worker and tile mason. He bought a modest house on a narrow, triangular lot in 1921, and immediately began the construction of the towers and worked over a period of 33 years until 1954 with no outside help and only the most elemental tools to build this monument

The Watts Towers are comprised of 17 interconnected sculptural towers: three tall spires, two walls, a gazebo, many small towers, a ship, patio and other structures, which collectively make up what Rodia called Nuestro Pueblo (our town in Spanish).

The sculptures' armatures are constructed from steel rebar using nearby railroad tracks as a makeshift vise and Rodia's own concoction of a type of concrete, wrapped with wire mesh. The main supports are embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile, and glass. They are decorated with  found objects, including bottles, broken dishes, rocks, ceramic tiles, seashells, figurines, mirrors even cooking utensils, salvaged from his neighbourhood or at his job site. Local children also contributed by bringing pieces of broken pottery to Rodia, and he also used damaged pieces from Malibu Potteries and CALCO (California Clay Products Company) . Other items came from alongside the Pacific Electric Railway  right-of-way between Watts and Wilmington. Rodia would often walked the right-of-way all the way to Wilmington in search of material, a distance of nearly 20 miles (32 km).

The use of these items encapsulates elements of everyday American life between 1900 and 1950 particularly the blue/green glass. Rodia did not use scaffolding, but built the structure to conform to his physique—everything was built within his reach and step as he used the structure itself as a sort of scaffolding.

For more about this fascinating structure and the colourful history behind it visit the Watts Tower website where you will find details of 'I BUILD THE TOWER' The feature length documentary on the Watts Towers

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