Local News

UCLA Engineers Study Stability of Watts Towers

If you’ve ever been near East 107th Street in South Los Angeles, you’ve seen them.

The Watts Towers, 17 structures, two of which are over 99 feet tall.

“It’s so unique, it’s an absolute treasure,” says Mark Gilbert, of LACMA.

But this treasure is deteriorating… *cracking* under its weight as it stands up against  the elements.

“We think it’s a combination of the factors, we think it’s the heat, the wind, could even be buses and the trains going by,” Gilbert says.

Mark Gilbert from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, along with researchers from UCLA are studying the stability of the structures… in an effort to prevent further cracks from occurring.

“We wired up the structure with sensors that measure how it’s tilting, sensors to measure how it vibrates with wind and earthquakes,” says Dr. Bob Nigbor, UCLA Research Engineer.

The structures were built by Simon Rodia  – an Italian immigrant who completed the project back in 1954.

He used various materials including steel, cement, glass and ceramics.

“This is an art work that was built by an artist, sole artist, built over a period of 32 years, with power tools, basically hand tools and himself, after work, his workday was completed, started building these towers,” says Gilbert.

Now… with the help of sophisticated equipment… and some restorative work along the way.

Experts hope this iconic structure will survive many more years to come.

“What we learn here is actually applicable to a lot of monuments and outside art around the world,” says Dr. Nigbor.

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