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posted on 10.30.09

This is continuation, of sorts, of my article on the Watts House Project. This neighborhood renewal project was inspired by Watts Towers, a 100-foot structure in the heart of South Central Los Angeles. It was singlehandedly constructed by Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant untrained in architecture, engineering, or sculpture. Nonetheless, the towers have survived numerous earthquakes, a municipal safety test, and the Watts Rebellion. Rodia spoke little English, and he spent thirty solitary years working day and night on the towers. Once they were completed he left L.A., never to return, and died soon after in northern California. Rodia's ability to turn frustration and isolation into art resonated with the community that created West Coast hip hop, and the towers became an emblem of empowerment through creativity.

Entrance to Watts Towers.

The inner courtyard.

Watts Towers, temporarily under construction. The Watts Towers Center maintains the structures and gives tours.

Simon Rodia in front of his masterpiece.

The poster for Wattstax, a concert (and later film) held in Watts to reclaim morale after the riots. Notice the towers behind Isaac Hayes.

Still from Hate it or Love it, by The Game featuring 50 Cent.

Still from I Like Them Girls, by Tyrese. The song is forgettable, but he turns the towers into a nightclub for the video. Tyrese is very loyal to his hometown, and the cover of his album 2000 Watts also features the towers.


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Richard Buckminster Fuller


Design Arts
Visual Arts



The Game
Simon Rodia
Outsider Art
Tyrese Gibson
50 Cent
Watts Rebellion