Jesse Jarnow

watts towers, 2/06

Building in his Los Angeles backyard while belting opera, a 4’10” Italian tile layer named Simon Rodia constructed one of the foremost wonders of the modern world between 1921 and 1955: the Watts Towers. Using only a window washer’s harness to convey himself upwards, the towers — the tallest is 90 feet — have survived race riots, earthquakes, and bureaucracy to become a life-affirming marvel of the power of beautiful weirdness. Their complexity — all broken bottles and scrap tiles and shells and rigidly overlaying grids creating a surreal three-masted ship — is overwhelming, and literally awe-inspiring.

(Conceptual continuity fun fact #17: As a neighborhood kid growing up in Watts, a young Charles Mingus occasionally helped Rodia with his work.)


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