Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Simon Rodia's Vision

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.

It was while I was researching Gaudi, the famous Spanish architect, that my mind somehow associated Gaudi's work with Simon Rodia's (1875-1965) Watts Towers.

As with most people who live for 90 years, Rodia had a lengthy story to tell. It would include his birth in Italy , his immigration at age 15 to America, and his journey to settle in the West. He would tell us about how he came to a vision on the small triangular residential lot he bought in Watts - a district of Los Angeles.

The vision was to build something lasting - something for the people to enjoy. This vision would become the Watts Towers. Rodia built his dream from all types of recycled materials - pottery, glass, structural steel, and seashells. He would etch designs in the mortar that he used to enrobe the steel and to embed his found materials.

Rodia worked without scaffolds, welding equipment, or plans. He used a window washer’s belt to climb the towers, and pipe-fitting tools to connect the metal. Much of the work was done after he'd finished a very physical day job.

When he left the project some 34 years later at age 79, he had developed 17 structures including several towers. One is 99.5 feet tall - amazing what a passion to follow a vision can create.


  1. I've seen the Watts Towers. From a distance, the towers and spires look skeletal but as you get closer, you can see how the frames are covered with mortar and colorful ceramic and glass pieces. It is really extraordinary and makes me think of his formative years in Italy.

  2. Gaudi and Rodia are two creative, inspiring geniuses. Gail

  3. Re:Rodia as an early recycler (1921)

    On the ancient Greek island of Delos are remains of flooring made from sections of amphora handles, cut, laid side by side, and then finished to make an even and beautiful flooring surface. Maybe more utilitarian than art, but a bit of both. JR

  4. That was very interesting. Thanks for sending me those informative pieces. You have no idea how little I know about art. ML

  5. Hey, ML, You know what you like. That's what's important. RA

  6. I saw it years ago. You've made me want to go see it again.MS