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The Triforium sculpture's proposed restoration

The quirky 1970s sculpture is regaining stature

The Triforium
Courtesy of the Triforium Project

Forget the cerveza and nachos this evening: Spend a non-traditional Cinco de Mayo celebrating one of LA's enduring bits of weirdo public art at the Triforium in Downtown LA.

It's been derided as a "Psychedelic Nickelodeon," the "Kitsch-22 of Kinetic Sculpture" and "Three Wishbones in Search of a Turkey." But the 1975 "polyphonoptic sculpture" by mosaic artist and sculptor Joseph Young is increasingly an object of admiration and will open to visitors today from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

You'll be able to view the six-story sculpture's control room, which is usually closed to the public, and also meet members of The Triforium Project, the group that wants to restore the moribund monument and update it with new technology so that it can fulfill Young's original intent of integrating light and sound in response to passersby or input from users.

The event celebrates the Triforium's inclusion in the newly announced Cities Project, an unlikely partnership among the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Heineken, Indiegogo, and the Bruno Mars 24K Magic U.S. Tour in support of 10 preservation projects in various cities.

Why the Triforium?

“In preservation, we often describe the historic places that we are working to save and restore as ‘truly unique’ or ‘one of a kind.’ That could not be more true for the Triforium—an audacious work of public art that still manages to light up imaginations even though its incandescent bulbs have burned out,” Jason Clement, director of community campaigns for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, told Curbed.

Courtesy the Triforium Project

The Cities Project has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the 10 projects in exchange for tickets to Mars' summer tour. A minimum $150 donation gets you a pair of tickets, which are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can also text “CITIES” to 88500. The Cities Project will award more than 2,600 pairs of tickets. So far, the Triforium has raised $4,855 in the campaign.

"An effort to rehabilitate this quirky, iconic 1970s structure will help bring music to the heart of downtown Los Angeles," the project's announcement said. "This project will aim to breathe new life into the Triforium and its unique sound system."

The Triforium's reputation is enjoying a slow rehabilitation. It was widely despised and attacked as a waste of taxpayer money when it debuted in 1975. It consisted of nearly 1,500 hand-made multicolored glass prisms mounted on three wishbone-shaped concrete support structures. A computer was designed to synchronize lights with music from a glass bell carillon, but the ’70s-era computer never worked right.

The sculpture deteriorated over the years, and the carillon was removed and sold. But renewed interest in the Triforium led to piecemeal repairs and upgrades in 2006 and 2016.

Now the Triforium Project and the Cities Project want to restore the Triforium to its full glory, using new LED lights, a new computer and a new networked system.

"Restored to its intended grandeur, the Triforium can serve as a beacon for Los Angeles’ bright future," the Triforium Project said on its website. "Above all, it can shine a light on public artwork itself—and signal the flickering of a new movement, one that encourages people to reclaim and celebrate public artworks in their cities."

The Triforium is in Fletcher-Bowron Square, near the corner of Main Street and Temple Street near City Hall.