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Thursday, May 30 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Architecture) Breaking the Cycle: The Role of Monitoring in the Watts Towers Conservation Project

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Since January 2011, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has worked under contract to the City of Los Angeles on the conservation of the Watts Towers, a National Historic Landmark sculptural site. Created by Sabato Rodia between 1921 and 1954, the Towers include three towers, the tallest measuring 99.5 feet in height, and eight additional sculptures constructed of scrap iron covered in Portland cement and ornamented with scavenged glass and tile fragments, sea shells, stones, and other material.. LACMA’s mandate is to update the site’s conservation and maintenance protocol through written guidance, as well as provide daily preservation maintenance.

Due in part to the non-traditional aspects of Rodia’s construction method, the Towers are subject to deterioration including mortar cracking, loss of ornaments, and corrosion of the steel elements. Cracks often occur and reoccur in areas of past restoration. Past restorers often adopted a whole-scale approach involving removal of mortar shell and replacement of steel armature when corrosion was suspected to play the leading role. In order to better understand the various causes of deterioration, LACMA is engaged in monitoring on a variety of fronts, including thermal, vibration, and corrosion monitoring. Preliminary data indicate that the deterioration of the Towers is more complex than previously thought. Conservation materials currently being evaluated have been identified in view of requirements for flexibility and improved adhesion. Migrating corrosion inhibitors will also be evaluated. By utilizing amended mortars, elastomeric crack-fillers and adhesives better suited to the unique conditions of the Towers, it is hoped to minimize the need for more aggressive structural intervention in the future.


Blanka Kielb

Assistant Conservator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Blanka Kielb is a graduate of the Queen's University Program in Art Conservation, where she earned a Master of Art Conservation degree in paintings, and currently resides in Los Angeles. Her professional interests include treatment of painted surfaces with a focus on wall paintings... Read More →

Frank Preusser, PhD

Senior Conservation Scientist and Project Manager, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Frank D. Preusser received his PhD in chemistry in 1973 from the Technical University in Munich, Germany.  From 1973 to 1983 he was head of the scientific laboratory of the Doerner Institut in Munich. From 1983 to 1993 he worked at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles... Read More →

Thursday May 30, 2013 2:00pm - 2:30pm EDT
JW Marriott 103-104 19 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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