UCLA engineers will study the stability of Watts Towers

A view of the Watts Towers in South L.A. The renowned sculptures are the subject of a new study being carried out by UCLA engineers to determine their stability.
(Christina House / For The Times)
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The Watts Towers in South Los Angeles will be the subject of a new study conducted by experts from UCLA to determine the stability of the historic sculptures, which were completed by Simon Rodia in 1954. The study, now underway, is expected to be completed by early next year.

Chief among the concerns are cracks that have plagued the towers for many years. Sensors have been placed around the site to measure variables such as wind and sun exposure. Experts are also measuring the effects that earthquakes have had on the sculptures.

The study is being carried out by engineers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. The project is being overseen by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has a long-term preservation contract for the Watts Towers.


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Engineers also have received a grant from the National Science Foundation for the project.

The most serious cracks are at the base of the towers, according to Ertugrul Taciroglu, a professor of engineering at UCLA who is working on the study. He said in an interview the sensors are designed to help gauge the extent to which the cracks are created by the elements.

The sensors were installed this year and will be in place for a 12-month period, said Taciroglu. Analyses of the data will be reported to LACMA and the National Science Foundation.

The Watts Towers are designated as a national historic landmark. The seven structures are made of steel rods that have been covered by various material, including cement, glass, ceramic and found objects.


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