Episode 125: The Triforium Project

Do you know what the Triforium is? I am an Angeleno, born and raised and before the LA Design Festival, I had no idea so if you don’t know what it is, don’t feel bad.  The Triforium is a six-story, 60-ton public artwork project in Downtown Los Angeles. Created by artist JOSEPH YOUNG. Its original design includes 1,494 multicolored hand blown, Italian glass prisms that glow in synchrony to music from a 79-note glass bell carillon, making it the largest musical instrument of its kind on Earth. It stands in Fletcher-Bowron Square, in the shadow of LA’s iconic city hall. Mocked by politicians, denounced by art critics, and limited by then available technology, the Triforium has nevertheless survived, it is NOT one of our city's most beloved landmarks, but it should be. Robert Stockwell, the Mall's architect, commissioned Joseph Young to execute a tall work that would serve as both a focal point and as a symbol for the Mall. Young's first proposal, a bell tower, was discarded after problems arose in the planned sound system. He then designed the Triforium to symbolize the interdependence of the three branches of government. Conceived to integrate art, science and music into a unified physical, visual and audio theme, the work was described by Young as "a bold, confident statement that expresses man's faith in the future." Attached at approximately the midpoint of each of the three two-legged arrow shaped legs, is a bay of 22 vertical steel columns of various lengths containing between 19 and 24 colored glass prisms. Each prism was handblown in Italy and houses a light in its hollow center. The total weight of the Triforium's 1494 prisms is approximately 15 tons. An electronic harmonium, a 79 note glass bell carillon with two octaves of English bells, and two octaves of Flemish bells forged by Gerald Finkenbeiner of Waltham, Massachusetts provide the music for the Triforium. Operated manually from a console, or controlled from a computer, the bells transform sound to color and regulate the intensity of the lights inside the prisms. To avoid audio distortion, loudspeakers hang below the arches of the reinforced precast concrete legs instead of behind the glass bays as originally planned.

This is the story of a creative group trying to save the Triforium, one glass cube at a time. The Triforium Project is comprised of Tanner Blackman, Carmen Zella who were not present for our conversation, the hilarious Tom Carroll was, as were Claire Evans and Jona Bechtold of the band Yacht. Consider yourself up to speed and meet the Triforium Project.