Watts Towers

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“I had in mind to do
something big and I did it.”

—Simon Rodia          

The other day I visited the watts towers. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them (I had not prior to coming to L.A.) but it’s a pretty remarkable structure. An Italian immigrant names Simon Rodia spent over thirty years constructing the towers. What I find most appealing was that he used found materials such as broken glass, pottery, seashells, tiles, etc. Things that we step over on the street every day we used to create such an immense work of art. The craftsmanship that went into the towers is something to marvel at as well. The unconventional way in which he built the towers without any scaffolding or support beams were equally dangerous and inspiring. Much of the architecture was borrowed heavily from early Italian renaissance which Rodia was notoriously known for admiring.

Because of his isolated nature and reluctance to receive aid, people grew suspicious of Rodia’s motives. This led to vandalism as well as rumors that the towers were transmitting Communist ideals throughout the community. However Rodia continued to work until the job was completed. HE abruptly left the towers, giving the property they stood on to a neighbor. Simon rodia then died quietly a few years later in Martinez, California. Some people even suggested tearing down the towers, but because they were deemed suitable to withstand seventy-plus mph winds, they towers remained erected. Now they symbolize one man’s dedication and persistence, albeit a mystery to most.

I think it’s important to note that Simon Rodia left his wife and kids to work as a day laborer prior to moving to Watts and constructing the towers. They failed to mention that bit in the brief educational video. I don’t really think anyone knows the true motivation behind erecting the towers except Rodia himself. The same can be said about his life prior to working on the towers. Maybe he built them to redeem himself. Maybe he built them because he was bored with that life. Whatever reason, I like to think that the towers represent a demonstration of rebirth. No matter what age, state of mind, or personal history someone has, it’s never too late to begin a new expressive chapter in their life.

The watts towers are now a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

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