Since coming to the world’s attention in 1959, the site has become the focus of cultural and aesthetic movements addressing issues of social and economic changes.
Who: Sabato “Simon” Roda was the “architect” for the towers. The term is used loosely as Simon was not a studied architect. Sr. Roda was an Italian-American immigrant who moved to America at 15 years of age with his brother in Pennsylvania. After marriage and divorce he moved up and down the west coast and finally settled in Watts in the 1920’s.
What: The Watts Towers is historical landmark built by an artist with no studied artistic or architectural background. It has become considered one of Southern California’s most culturally significant public artworks. It is also a National and California Registered Landmark.
Where: The Towers are located in the city of Watts in Los Angeles, Ca. The beginning of modern Watts began with the arrival of Spanish-Mexican settler as part of La Tajuata land grant in 1820. Simon arrived in the 1920’s after the influx of white Americans into Southern California in the 1870′s. La Tajuata land was sold off and subdivided for smaller farms and homes. The arrival of the railroad spurred the development of the area and in 1907. In 1927 Watts was incorporated as a separate city. In 1940’s is where we see the second wave of immigration of African American in to Watts. By 1960 the area was nearly 100% African American dominated.
Why: The towers was a past time for Sr. Roda. Every day after work he would have a glass a wine and work on his “project.” After the project was completed, which started in 1921 took over 30 years to build, years of fighting with the city over permits followed.
How: Structural steel core, wrapped in wire mesh and covered with mortar serve as the base. The mosaics are inlaid with tile, glass, shell, pottery, and rocks. The monument is indestructible as it was tried to be taken down in 1959 when a crane was used to demolish the structure but to no avail. The stability of the monument has been studied by architects. It is an unparalleled example of an art environment constructed by a single, self-taught artist.
It represents what one self taught artist can create. The tenacity of Sr. Roda is a testament of what daily improvements can do. The colorful piece brings vibrancy and culture and a reminder of an age gone by.
Watts Towers are located two blocks south east of the Watts Station via the blue line metro Station off of 103rd St./ Watts Station.
Watts Towers Arts Center, 1727 East 107th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90002