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  • Watts TowerWatts Tower Los Angeles, California
    The Watts Tower or Towers of Simon Rodia are located in the Watts district of Los Angeles, California and is an odd collection of 17 interconnected structures, two that reach up to heights of almost 100 feet. These magnificent towers were constructed by an Italian immigrant construction worker named Sabato, Sam or Simon, Rodia in his spare time, taking a full 33 years to complete, from 1921 to 1954. This special work is a marvelous example of non-traditional vernacular architecture and American Naive art. They were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990 and Robert Koehler, reviewer for the magazine Variety, the documentary film called "I Build the Tower", is the most complete visual perspective of this self-made architect called Simon Rodia and his fantastic masterpiece. It is also listed on the National Register of Historical Places, the California Historical Landmarks and the LA Historic-Cultural Monuments. Rodia is believed to have said, "I had in mind to do something big and I did it." The sculptures' armatures are made of steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh and coated with mortar. The main supports have been embedded with pieces of tile, glass and porcelain and decorated with scrap materials that Rodia found, like, sea shells, bed frames, scrap metal, bottles and ceramic tiles. He named the towers Nuestro Pueblo, or our town, and constructed them using no special equipment, predetermined design, and worked alone with hand tools and window-washer's equipment. The children of the neighborhood would bring him broken glass and pottery, hoping that Rodia would use them, but most of the items or materials were from his workplace at the Malibu Pottery; he worked there for many years. The green glass pieces can be recognized by their various parts that belong to 7UP, Canada Dry, Squirt and Bubble Up bottles, while the blue pieces look like they were from milk of magnesia bottles. The majority of the framework was scrap rebar, bent using nearby railroad tracks for a vise, and some items came from walking the tracks of the Pacific Electric Railway right of way that went between Watts and Wilmington. Simon often walked the tracks looking for pieces he could use, going all the way to Wilmington, which was 20 miles away. In 1955, he gave the property away, and left, retiring to Martinez, California; many said he had become tired of the abuse he received from his neighbors and the vandals that occasionally got onto his property when he was gone. He died 10 years later, never having returned to his magnificent sculpture. His property was sold, with his bungalow burning down and finally the city condemned the structure and ordered that it be razed, but actor Nicholas King and film editor William Cartwright went to the site in 1959, and saw the sad neglect, so they purchased it for $3000 so that it would be saved. The city found out and decided to demolish it before the transfer could happen, in the meantime, it had become a world famous and people from all over opposed the destruction. A group, made up of King and Cartwright, and the curator of the LA County Museum of Art, together with architects, artists and community activists negotiated with the city to have an engineering test to see if the towers could be dangerous to anyone in the district. A crane was brought in and steel cable attached to each tower, then using lateral force, tried to move the towers. Nothing moved, and when the crane finally broke down, the test was considered finished and the towers were saved. The city was given them in 1975, who then gave them to the state in 1978. These spectacular towers are one of only nine such folk art sites in the National Register of Historic Places.

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  • J. Paul Getty CenterJ. Paul Getty Center Los Angeles, California
    The Getty Center is located in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California and one of the two locales of the J. Paul Getty Museum; with permanent collections that include illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, pre-20th century European paintings, drawings and 19th and 20th century American and European photographs. One of the magnificent works on display is the painting "Irises" by Vincent Van Gogh. This center opened in 1997, and is famous for its architecture, views and gardens. The center contains the museum, the Getty Foundation, the administrative offices of J. Paul Getty Trust, the owner and operator of the center, the Getty Institute and the Getty Conservation Institute. The land was bought in 1983, with the center sitting on 24 acres in a 110 acre site in the Santa Monica Mountains and surrounded by 600 acres of nature that is perpetual. The hill is 900 feet high, so that on a clear day, you can see the incredible skyline of the city, as well as the San Bernardino Mountains off in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. Richard Meier was picked to be the architect in 1984, and construction started in 1989. Construction problems arose and the finish date was moved from 1990 to 1995, but in that year, it was only halfway done. Finally, in 1997, it was opened and instead of the original cost of $350 million, it was $1.3 billion.  Paintings in the collection include; Arii Matamoe or the Royal End by Paul Gaugin (1892), Irises by Vincent Van Gogh (1889) which sold for $53.9 million in 1987, portrait of a Halberdier by Pontormo (1528-1530) bought at auction for $35.2 million, and a copy of Portrait of Louis XIV by the workshop of Hyacinthe Rigaud (after 1701). There are five museum structures, that are called pavilions, and named south, east, west, north and the Exhibitions Pavilion. A 134,000 square foot central garden was the creation of artist Robert Irwin, which was completed in 1997. 

January 11, 2011