- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 28 Nov 2018
The Watts Towers are an installation of sculptures, towers and walls located in the Watts area of Los Angeles, California. They were built single-handedly by local resident Simon Rodia over a period of 34 years, beginning in 1921. The installation is remarkable for having been built without mechanical equipment, scaffolding or drawn designs. Instead, Rodia used simple tools and everyday items such as scrap steel, bed frames, pipes, and broken glass.
There are 17 major sculptures constructed of structural steel, wrapped with wire mesh and covered with mortar. The tallest of the towers reaches a height of 30 m (99.5 ft) and contains the longest slender reinforced concrete column in the world. His ‘ship of Marco Polo’ includes a spire that reaches 28 ft.
When Rodia, aged 75, moved away from Watts, the City of Los Angeles ordered that the towers should be demolished on safety grounds. But local campaigners devised a strength test to demonstrate their stability. A crane tried to pull them over but both it and its steel hawser buckled, and so the authorities decided to let them remain.
The local community then formed the Watts Towers Arts Center to preserve the installation. They are now listed on the Natural Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark of Los Angeles.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- A House for Essex.
- Building of the week series.
- Calakmul Corporate Building, Mexico.
- Dali Theatre and Museum.
- Dancing House, Prague.
- Dennis Severs house.
- Little Crooked House, Poland.
- Lotus Temple.
- Luxor Las Vegas.
- Space Needle.
- Sustainable materials.
- The Big Basket.
- Theme Building, LAX
- Unusual building design of the week.
 External references
Featured articles and news
What is biophilic design and how can it increase well-being?
80 experts come up with the top 7 mistakes the industry makes with BREEAM.
Compliance cannot be verified by inspection on delivery.
Some electric cars have batteries that give a range of over 350 miles.
Assembling, curating, caring for, and designing the future.
A sensitive approach to renovating a building of historic stature.
UK energy policy uncertainty as Welsh project put on hold
What collaborative working achieves and how it can be put in place.
BSRIA publishes the 2019 edition of its small but concise annual databook.
Using QSAND to measure the performance of disaster response.
What U-values are, why they matter and how they are calculated.
The need to ensure that we plan for all aspects of our bio-economy
BSRIA calls on government to reach deeper into the causes of pollution.