The Triforium

 
(2021)* – View looking SW showing the Triforium located in Fletcher Bowron Square on the NE corner of Main and Temple streets with City Hall seen in the background on the left and the Federal Courthouse on the right.  

 

Historical Notes

Constructed in 1975, the 60-foot-tall “polyphonoptic” sculpture was designed by Artist Joseph L. Young’s and featured nearly 1,500 multicolored Venetian glass prisms and a 79-note, glass-bell electronic carillon. It was originally installed with an internal computer synchronized music-and-light show.

 

 

 

 

 
(2017)* - Night view showing both the Triforium and City Hall lit up.  

 

Historical Notes

Artist Joseph Young predicted that his public artwork would eventually become known as "the Rosetta Stone of art and technology" and boasted that it was the world's first "polyphonoptic" tower. He also said that Triforium was a tribute to the unfinished, kaleidoscopic nature of Los Angeles. In the original concept, Young intended the sculpture to project laser beams into space, which would have made it the world's first astronomical beacon. Budgetary restrictions, however, curtailed this design element. The initial cost of the sculpture was $925,000, and it was dedicated on December 12, 1975, although an electrical snafu delayed the musical portion's debut.*

 

 

 

 

 
(1976)* - The Triforium as it appeared one year after installation.  

 

Historical Notes

Once the public got a glance at the finished product, things got worse. Art critics and city officials united in their disdain for the piece, which was later lampooned as "three wishbones in search of a turkey," (a knock at the sculptures tri-pronged appearance) and "Trifoolery." Though the sculpture was definitely ahead of its time—"the first public artwork to integrate light and sound by use of a computer"—the cool reception it's received influenced a "hands-off" approach from city officials, and so it was mostly left alone to silently, slowly break down. ^

 

 

 

 

 
(2021)* - Looking up toward City Hall from the base of the Triforium. Photo by Carlos G. Lucero.  

 

Historical Notes

Originally designed as a "'polyphonoptic' sculpture," mosaic artist and sculptor Joseph Young intended for the nearly 1,500 glass bulbs on the six-story structure to light up "in synchrony to music from a 79-note glass bell carillon." But things didn't quite work out that way and backlash against the 1975 piece eventually led to its slow decline. ^

 

 

 

 

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(2021)* - Looking up to the top of the Triforium with City Hall in the background. Photo by Carlos G. Lucero.  

 

Historical Notes

Ever since its installation, the sculpture's had it rough. Young's dreams for a piece that emitted lasers and responded to the movements of passers-by were dashed when "the $250,000 budget soared to nearly $1 million," wrote the Downtown News in 2006, which was the last time the Triforium saw any effort toward updating or restoration. (It was cleaned and broken bulbs were replaced.)

 

 

 

 

 
(2015)* - City Hall as seen through the Triforium. Photo by David S.  

 

Historical Notes

Unveiled with much fanfare at the opening of the Los Angeles Mall, the Triforium sculpture subsequently fell into disrepair and became the object of ridicule. Legend has it that a judge in the federal courthouse across the street claimed that the noise from the sculpture's sound system interfered with his trials and asked city officials to shut it down. Over the years, the sculpture suffered from a leaking reflection pool located at its base and pigeons often roosted in the structure. It was reputed to be "too expensive to fix, but too expensive to tear down." A December 14, 2006, Los Angeles Times article mentioned several nicknames that the sculpture has acquired over its lifetime: The Psychedelic Nickelodeon, Trifoolery, Three Wishbones in Search of a Turkey, Kitsch-22 of Kinetic Sculpture, and Joe's L.A. Space Launch.*

 

 

 

 

 
(2017)* - The Triforium in different shades of color.  

 

Historical Notes

After decades of inoperation, the lighting effects were restored and reactivated on December 13, 2006, following a $7,500 refurbishment.  The sound synchronization computer was still due to be replaced when the lights and sound were turned back on. The sound currently heard from the Triforium speakers now originates from an external playback source and not the Finkenbeiner Triforium Carillon, which was disconnected and is now privately owned. In 2016, the sculpture received a further upgrade, paid for with $100,000 won in the LA2050 grant competition directed by the Goldhirsh Foundation. According to the Los Angeles Times, this latest upgrade did not restore the original reflecting pool because the water leaks into the Los Angeles Mall.*

 

 

 

 

 
(2013)* - The Triforium in living color. Photo by David S.  

 

Historical Notes

After two years of upgrades, a team of sound and light engineering firms created “The Triforium Project” to sponsor and produce live musical performances, (the latest in October and November 2018).*

 

 

 

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Historical Early Views

 

 

Newest Additions

 

 

Early LA Buildings and City Views

 

 

History of Water and Electricity in Los Angeles

 

 

 

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