“Nightmare” Sculpture in L.A. Could Get Modern-Day Redesign

A $100,000 grant may give the light-up piece another shot at glory. 

The Triforium (Photo by Channone Arif via Flickr)

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A coalition of Los Angeles artists, urban planners and community members are working to restore a quirky, 60-ton sculpture across from City Hall called the Triforium, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The concrete tripod originally included 1,494 multicolored glass cubes that would glow in synchrony to music from a carillon of 79 quartz bells. Embedded motion sensors were intended to let pedestrians influence what tunes the sculpture played. Unfortunately, the sculpture, designed by Joseph Young and revealed in 1975, never lived up to its vision. The computer hidden in the structure to synchronize the whole production was plagued with problems. The embedded sensors never worked properly, and music played only intermittently. The glass bulbs have now mostly burned out.

The sculpture always had its critics among civic leaders and artists, and its failure to operate correctly led to some less-than-kind nicknames, including the “Trifoolery,” the “Psychedelic Nickelodeon,” the “Kitsch-22 of Kinetic Sculpture” and the “Electrician’s Nightmare.”

A small group of devotees, however, long insisted that the sculpture wasn’t a failure, but rather ahead of its time. Now, with the help of a $100,000 grant from the MYLA2050 challenge, they may get the chance to not only fix the sculpture, but also to retrofit it with new digital technology. The group that submitted the winning proposal shared more of their vision on their website:

“In 2016 we have technology that was unavailable in 1975. We want to retrofit the Triforium with long-lasting, power-saving LEDs, and build it a new brain — a nimble and inexpensive computer system that can achieve Young’s original goals. We want to create an app that will allow people to send “polyphonoptic” compositions for the Triforium to play, and invite local artists to engage directly with the work.”

The Goldhirsh Foundation awards $1 million yearly for projects that help the city realize its LA2050 report. The grants are given in categories for Learn, Create, Play, Connect and Live, and winners are chosen from among those who receive enough votes online. The Triforium was pitched in the “Play” category.

It isn’t yet clear who will head up the restoration, or when it could take place. Felicia Filer, director of the Department of Cultural Affairs public art division, which owns the Triforium, said she has not met with the coalition that won the grant, but that they would be happy to restore the structure.

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Kelsey E. Thomas is a writer and editor based in the most upper-left corner of the country. She writes about urban policy, equitable development and the outdoors (but also about nearly everything else) with a focus on solutions-oriented journalism. She is a former associate editor and current contributing editor at Next City.

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Tags: los angelesarts and culturepublic space

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