Interviews

Why 5 Every Day is Reviving The Triforium, One of L.A.’s Most Ostracized Art Installations

We've been admiring 5 Every Day from afar since Claire Evans and Jona Bechtolt of YACHT launched the local happenings app and members club three years ago. But their more recent transition from suggesting explorative destinations around Los Angeles to also engaging and hosting their own inspired gatherings has propelled us into a new level of fandom. 

Beyond 5 Every Day's themed film nights and special takeovers of the La Brea Tar Pits, among other events, their new efforts to restore and modernize the Triforium interactive light-and-sound sculpture in Downtown Los Angeles encouraged us to get a closer understanding of the intricate project. We spoke with Claire about the massive undertaking. 

   Photos by Cara Robbins

Photos by Cara Robbins

Who first introduced you to the Triforium?

Like most Angelenos, probably, we’d driven past the Triforium a hundred times without thinking twice about it. It wasn’t until we saw an episode of our friend Tom Carroll’s Tom Explores Los Angeles webseries dedicated to the Triforium that we realized its significance and its amazing history. It was a real awakening: there are incredible stories all around us in this city, if we just take the time to look.

Who is involved with you in the Triforium restoration project? How do you all know each other?

It’s a real mix of people, and the more people join the team the more ambitious the restoration project becomes. The core Triforium Project team is us, Tom Carroll, Tanner Blackman, an urban planner who has tons of experience working with LA city government, Qathrym Brehm, who runs Downtown Art Walk and was instrumental in the last restoration of the Triforium back in 2006, Lou Pizante and Maria Redin from Collective Studios, who work on making purposeful artist-driven projects happen, and our team at Windish Creative — Juanita Garcia and Michele Fleischli. After throwing the Triforium a 40th birthday party in December, we met tons of people who wanted to join the team — artists, historians, civic leaders, engineers, and even people involved in the Triforium’s early years. It’s already a beacon; people interested in the Triforium tend to find each other.

What's the overarching goal with the project?

What we’re envisioning goes beyond a simple restoration — we can keep putting in new incandescent bulbs, but they’ll only burn out again and again, just as they did after the 2006 restoration. Our first imperative will be to retrofit the Triforium with technologies unavailable to Joseph Young in 1975. Instead of incandescent bulbs, we want to put in LED lights, which will last much longer and use less power. And instead of a room-size computer with archaic software, a much smaller, faster, more flexible system that can be updated and debugged regularly. Then we want to build tools that will allow Angelenos to interact with the Triforium in ways Young could never have anticipated: The Triforium was originally a musical instrument, and we want people to be able to create their own compositions for the Triforium to play. 

What is your favorite piece of Triforium history? 

What’s interesting about this project is how difficult it is to find comprehensive information about the Triforium’s early years. It’s taken us connecting with the artist's daughters and city archivists, really digging deep, and talking to lots of people to cobble together a roughly comprehensive timeline of what happened and why. It’s fascinating how relatively recent history can be effectively erased if it’s not online. You can’t blame people for not knowing what the deal is with the Triforium, because it’s quite opaque.

But there is so much interesting history: The artist, Joseph Young, originally wanted the Triforium to be an astronomical beacon, shooting a laser into space that would pulse out “Los Angeles” to the stars in Morse code! Stevie Wonder played at the foot of the Triforium in the '70s, and allegedly blew out the soundsystem! There’s a time capsule buried under the sculpture! The more we dig, the more we discover.

Where do you imagine a restored Triforium fitting in to the broader L.A. cultural landscape?

Los Angeles has changed a great deal since 1975. Triforium is right next to a bike lane, next to Grand Park, in a Downtown that is only becoming more pedestrian-friendly and more livable. The Triforium was initially commissioned because the developer of the L.A. Mall wanted something that would lure pedestrians and look compelling after dark. Those goals are still legitimate. So beyond honoring an artwork that never really got a fair shake, we see the restoration of the Triforium as a beacon for the new and improving Los Angeles.

When the Triforium was first created, it was widely panned. How do you feel it is now fitting of our modern era?

It was panned because it was expensive, and politically unpopular. It was also way ahead of its time, technologically, so it never really worked — which made it a disappointment to people. But we're a city of cultural innovators, artists, musicians, and cutting-edge technology. The Triforium anticipated all those things, and speaks to all those things. It’s something that artists, engineers, and musicians can collaborate on, a big ambitious multidisciplinary project. Mayor Tom Bradley, in the '70s, said the Triforium was something we had to love, something we had to learn to be proud of. It’s our history. We need to honor that.

Why are you drawn to the Triforium?

A lot of reasons. We love LA and believe in its power as a place where dreams come to life. We respect the crazy ambition of Joseph Young and believe it deserves a fair shake. And we have a soft spot for architecture and art with a vision of the future. Los Angeles has its fair share — the Bonaventure, the Theme Building at LAX, Googie diners and gas stations, the Bradbury Building — and that’s what we love about this city, all the visions and imaginations and myths it contains. If the Triforium has endeared itself to people over the years, it’s because our distance from the cultural moment that created it has grown wider, and perhaps we’ve grown nostalgic for the hopeful vision of the future such a moment represents. Plus who doesn’t love an underdog?