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.
- 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
PCSAs enable clients to employ contractors before the main contract commences. Read our introductory article.
ICE 200 brings together transformative projects from the past 200 years - and the engineers behind them.
Dame Judith Hackitt hosts an industry summit to kick start the second phase of the review.
This article explains the Buildings Regulations completion certificate, what it is, and when its needed.
Graphene has many potential applications, but when will it start being used in civil engineering?
Increasing productivity – now more than ever as we lead up to Brexit – should be the sector’s number one priority in 2018.
Carillion's collapse causes Construction Leadership Council to delay the construction sector deal report.
Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability: international frameworks, national and local guidance.
What will the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) mean for you when they come into force in May?
Business Secretary chairs a new taskforce to monitor and advise on mitigating the impacts of Carillion’s liquidation.
Sir John Armitt is appointed the new chair of the National Infrastructure Commission.
High quality and high density homes - is it what we need or is it storing up trouble?