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Watts Towers conference coming to UCLA

October 15, 2010 | 11:13 am


"Why I build it? I can't tell you. Why a man make the pants? Why a man make the shoes?"

So said Sam Rodia, explaining why he worked for 30 years to build what is now known worldwide as the Watts Towers.

If you're planning on attending the Watts Towers Common Ground Initiative conference next weekend, Oct. 22-24, it's worth taking a look, if you haven't already, at the 2006 documentary film "I Build the Tower" by Edward Landler and Brad Byer. That's where the Rodia quote cited above comes from.

A lyrical look at the South Los Angeles masterpiece constructed by Italian immigrant Sabato "Sam" Rodia, the film took nearly as long to make as the towers did to build. (Byer is Rodia's maternal great-nephew.) It includes, among much else, a fascinating 1983 interview that the filmmakers did with the  engineer and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. His last conversation for public consumption, Fuller's interview includes discussion of the towers from two perspectives: as a feat of structural engineering and as an expression of individual artistic genius.

The documentary is available on DVD. The Watts Towers Common Ground Initiative conference -- free and open to the public, with no advance registration required -- will be at UCLA, with a full roster of speakers on the design's roots in Italian religious festivals, its long-standing role within the Watts community, complex conservation issues and much more.

-- Christopher Knight

Photo: Sabato Rodia's Watts Towers. Credit: Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times

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