Civil engineers at the University of California, Los
Angeles, are using their technical skills and knowledge
to help preserve Watts Towers, one of the area’s iconic
structures and a National Historic Landmark.
Completed in 1954, Watts Towers was put together in
artist Simon Rodia’s backyard. The 17 steel and mosaic
sculptures are layered with cement, which is inlaid with
glass, ceramic pieces, and found objects, such as bottles
and sea shells. It took over 30 years to finish.
Time and the environment have taken a toll on the
folk art structures—some of which are nearly 100 feet
tall—so UCLA’s engineers have joined with conservators
from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art who want
to repair cracks and prevent further damage.
Last spring, the UCLA team installed sensors on the
central tower to measure acceleration, tilt, and crack
displacements, and accelerometers measure the magnitudes of external forces from wind and earthquakes.
The engineering team also installed a weather station,
which enables them to determine how crack movements
correlate with factors such as wind and temperature.
Around the clock, digital data is recorded on
site, and the data is transmitted to labs on campus
The National Science Foundation is supporting
the effort, which is using monitoring equipment
and technical support from the George E. Brown
UCLA expects to complete the project by
the end of 2014.