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Watts Towers

Watts Towers, group of folk-art towers in the Watts section of Los Angeles. The complex was built (1921–54) single-handedly by the self-taught Italian immigrant Simon Rodia (also spelled Rodilla, 1879–1965). Of varying heights (the tallest is nearly 100 ft/30 m high) and shapes, they are enigmatic and extraordinarily fanciful structures, sculptural in appearance and reminiscent of Antonio Gaudí's imaginative architecture. Elegant monuments to Rodia's inventiveness and industry, they are constructed of steel, stone, and cement, often in a kind of filigree, and inlaid with found objects such as china shards, bits of glass, seashells, and bottle caps in a multitude of patterns. Once considered an eyesore and threatened with demolition, the complex was eventually recognized as a significant work of art and designated a national landmark. Damaged by the 1994 earthquake, the towers underwent extensive renovations from 1995 to 2001.

See documentary film by E. Landler (2001).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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