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Nek Chand's Rock Garden and The Watts Tower, an aesthetic transformation of waste

Updated on December 12, 2010
Nek Chand Saini, creator of the Rock Gardens
Nek Chand Saini, creator of the Rock Gardens
Sculptures from the rock garden in Chandigarh
Sculptures from the rock garden in Chandigarh
Sam Rhodia's Watt's Tower
Sam Rhodia's Watt's Tower
The art  out of waste at Watts Tower
The art out of waste at Watts Tower


The Watts Tower or ‘Nuestro Pueblo‘situated in the Watts County of Los Angeles, California is a National Historic monument. ‘Nuestro Pueblo’ meaning ‘our town’, is a creative and strong masterpiece moulded from household and construction waste by Sabato (Sam) Rhodia. Sam Rhodia was an Italian immigrant who came to California as a construction worker. Sam bought land on the 107th street in Los Angeles in 1921. From 1921 to 1954 Sam worked as a construction worker during the day and an architect cum artist of the Watts Tower. His single-handed creation is built using simple hand tools. The Watts Tower has tall slender towers made with steel rods and pipes wrapped with wire mesh, a gazebo with a circular bench, a patio, three bird baths and a structure with a 28 foot tall spire that Sam referred to as the ‘the Ship of Marco Polo’. The structures are enclosed in a 140 ft long wall, the South Wall, which is ornately decorated with tiles, seashells, pottery, glass and hand drawn designs. The Watts Tower is the testimony of Sam’s integrity, industry, artistic and constructive capabilities.   It remains as the testimony of his creative ability to transform waste into an artistic monument.

Chandigarh  is a union territory of India and the capital of the States of Punjab and Haryana. Chandigarh means the fortress of Goddess Chandi. Linked to Mohali and Panchakula, the three cities are collectively called the The Chandigarh Trinity. Chandigarh, reputed to be India’s most beautiful city was artistically planned by Le Corbusier. The city is resplendent with beautiful parks, gardens, museums and religious shrines. The official emblem of the city, constructed by Le Corbusier is the Open Hand - ‘Open to give and Open to receive’. The city has a 3 km long manmade lake at the foothills of Sivalik the Sukhna Lake. Very close to Sukhna is the Nek Chand Rock garden of international repute. 

The Nek Chand Rock Garden is the artistic brilliance of Nek Chand Saini, a roads inspector for the Chandigarh’s Engineering Department, for which he received the respected award of a Padmashree. In 1957, Nek Chand started The Rock Garden as a secret project. In a span of 18 years, Nek Chand had built an empire of people and animals from household and construction waste. His concrete sculptures had covered 12 acres of land when they were finally discovered by authorities in 1975. Each alley in the Nek Chand garden,  is interconnected to courtyards filled with statues of dancers, musicians, animals and birds, all adorned beautifully with colorful bits and pieces of broken glass and tile. Built near Sukhna, the still forms created out items of neglect and waste, blend harmoniously with the thickets of a conservancy land to strike a perfect balance with Nature. Bearing resemblance to Mughal architecture, each doorway, archway or street opens up into a new world of life, all a part of the folk world from castaway material. Today, the Nek Chand Rock garden is spread over twenty five acres and basks in the popularity of being a unique creation of international repute. It is a reflection of a mind that worked to create out of waste rather than destruct and demolish.

Aren't  we in the quest of such enlightened artistes who could beautify the earth by transforming ugly waste into well crafted beauty? 


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    • justom profile image


      7 years ago from 41042

      Great hub, art from discarded items has always interested me. It's kind of amazing really. Peace!! Tom


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