It "was the most complicated test I ever did," recalled Norman J "Bud" Goldstone, of the lateral "stress test" he devised to prove the safety and stability of the Towers, built by Sabato Rodia (c. 1879–1965) in the Watts section of Los Angeles. Then a young aerospace engineer, he understood that because the open construction design of the Towers made them more akin to aircraft than to buildings, they should be evaluated on different structural principles. He took leave from his position at North American Aviation and collaborated with more than 20 engineers and technicians to develop the test, which took place on October 10, 1959. After its success, the City rescinded their demolition order and, since that time, the Watts Towers have been honoured with county, state, and national historic landmark status, and are lauded as the most important public artwork in the City of Los Angeles.
Born in St Cloud, Minnesota, Goldstone received his BA in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University. He worked on the Apollo and space shuttle programmes and held a patent for an in-flight refuelling system. After his retirement, he became an independent engineering consultant, continuing to advise on the Towers as well as on other large-scale art environments, and in 1997 he and his wife, Arloa Paquin Goldstone, wrote the book The Los Angeles Watts Towers (Getty Publications). In recent years, with reduced mobility, he acted as the conscience of the City of Los Angeles, publicly criticising what he saw as flawed conservation techniques and inadequate resources allocated for support of the Towers.
by Jo Farb Hernandez