The Watts Towers in South Los Angeles are like a wonder of the world: they are these super tall, man-made art structures that are the result of a breathtaking and genius passion project. People have traveled from far and wide to see them and art shows have been built around them. They are a fascinating structure that not many people really know the story of. However, you can learn all about it them in I Build The Tower, a little documentary centered on the towers.
The documentary, which was screened last month as a part of Civic Virtue: The Impact of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the Watts Towers Arts Center, contextualizes the towers and gives all of the background on the towers. The piece was built by Italian immigrant Sabato (better known as “Simon” or “Sam”) Rodia, who–at the time of building–was nearly fifty. The pursuit took him thirty three years and garnered him tons and tons of attention (he even landed on the cover of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band record!).
In I Build The Tower, you hear from Rodia, in his cute and warbly Italian accent, telling you about how he was just compelled to build the towers: it was his destiny, his Leaning Tower of Pisa. You see him scaling the towers, building and adding to it, learning that this wasn’t something that went unnoticed. Everyone was intrigued by it, from the neighbors to news reporters. Moreover, a lot of the structural details of the Towers are given, causing both awe and concern (for example, they are set in a foundation that is only twelve inches!!). You really get a sense of just how remarkable Rodia’s creation is.
For more on Watts Towers and I Build The Tower, check out the Pacific Standard Time Blog!
Above: Nuestro Pueblo (Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts), Simon Rodia, 1966. Photograph. © Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.