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Downtown LA's 'Polyphonoptic' Triforium Sculpture Could Finally Fulfill Its Fantastic Original Vision

The Triforium sculpture in Fletcher-Bowron Square near the Los Angeles Mall and across from LA City Hall was supposed to be incredibly cool. 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. Now, there's a new effort to restore the Triforium, courtesy of a diverse coalition of "LA enthusiasts" who want to see it refurbished and retrofitted, says a release from the group.

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.)

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. (Until now, hopefully.)

United behind the present Triforium restoration project is a group including noted LA booster/explorer Tom Carroll from the Tom Explores Los Angeles web series, the group YACHT of the 5 Every Day app, the executive director of the Downtown LA Art Walk, and Councilmember Jose Huizar. According to their website for the undertaking, the group is hoping to refurbish the piece, updating its computer technology to something more modern—"a nimble and inexpensive computer system that can achieve Young's original goals"—and replacing the bulbs with efficient LEDs. They're also planning to create an app that would allow anyone to compose their own "polyphonoptic" music and send it to the Triforium to be played out of those ladybug-like speakers, offering a whole new opportunity for engagement with the sculpture.

The group's push for the Triforium restoration officially kicks off on the fortieth anniversary of the public art piece, December 11, with a party that includes music and a look into the Triforium's control room, usually closed to the public.
· The Triforium Project [Official site]
· The Return of the Triforium [Downtown News]