Solve Christopher Janney's riddle, and you'll win a light show.

Janney is the artist who designed "Harmonic Grove," the interactive light and sound canopy at the entrance to the soon-to-open Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital.

At the bottom of a donors' plaque near the doors is the riddle.

"There won't be an arrow pointing saying this is a riddle," Janney said, "and it won't really make sense. You might think about it awhile then come back and say, 'Oh, does that have something to do with this?’ ”

Janney has put in place a specific sequence in which to touch the columns. Figure it out, and the riddle is solved.

Then the magic happens. 

The 4,000 square-foot colored glass canopy "lights up and dances on its own," Janney said, allowing children (and adults) to "play" with the architecture.

"I put riddles in a lot of my major works because that's what brings people back, and they bring their friends," Janney said. "It'll be there when the hospital opens on Oct. 4."

But if you'd like a glimpse of it, the hospital is holding an open house from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8. You can tour the facility and enjoy family activities and live entertainment. Food and refreshments will be available from local food trucks. The hospital is located at 8300 Constantin Blvd., which intersects with Essen Lane at a new traffic light in front of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. 

Or you can stop by the Louisiana Art & Science Museum to sample Janney's work in "Sound Is An Invisible Color," coinciding with the museum's exhibit, "Harmonies in Color: Six Contemporary Perspectives," both running through March 1.

Janney's multimedia installations and models fill the upstairs gallery with colored resin and glass works, many of them producing touch-activated harmonic mixes of music and sound.


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Getting to them might be the best part. You have to climb the musical staircase.

It's a bit of a case of déjà vu.

"There was a musical staircase in the museum in 1981," said Elizabeth Weinstein, chief curator, adding she didn't know the artist's name.

"Then I saw Chris' work, and I said, 'I wonder if he's the artist who made this?’ ”

He is.

Janney developed a traveling installation, "Soundstair," while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1970s. The sensory sound system has been installed throughout the world, including the Spanish Steps in Rome.

"I forgot that I'd done this in Baton Rouge in ’81 until I was here for about six months," Janney said. "It all looked familiar, but I couldn't figure it out. Then I had an exhibition at Ann Connelly's a year ago, and she reminded me that Carol Gikas had been the museum director, and I remembered Carol from ’81. Then everything fell into place."

Like the canopy at the new hospital, Janney is a bit of a riddle. He's an artist who composes music, a musician who designs buildings and an artist who sculpts sound and color.

"A designer solves problems, and an artist asks questions," he said. "Why not be both?"

Janney grew up in Washington, D.C., earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton and studied percussion and music at the Dalcroze School of Music and Mannes College of Music, both in New York.

He had his doubters of whether he could be successful working in more than one discipline.

"Well, let's just think about, I'm an architect and a jazz musician, so I've always been thinking about ways to intercept," Janney said. "When I was in architecture school at Princeton, I was studying with (noted architect) Michael Graves, and he knew I was also a musician, and he said, 'You're going to have to choose.' So, I didn't. I just sort of marched right down the middle and made this life from part architecture and part music."

Janney also notes it was the early 1970s, when experimentation in interdisciplinary fields was in vogue.

"When I went to MIT, they'd just started a graduate program in interdisciplinary technology, and I qualified for it," he said. "(Kinetic and technology-based artist) Otto Piene was the director, and he didn't tell me that I had to choose at all. He was very much an interdisciplinary person."

Now Janney lives in Boston, where he maintains music, art and administrative studios in his home, moving between studios as one discipline inspires the other. 

Since 1980, he's been combining his interests in music and architecture to create interactive sound and light installations and performances throughout the world, including such permanent works as "Reach-NY" at the 34th Street Subway Station in New York.

"I try to make architecture like music," Janney said. "That's where these urban musical instrument installation pieces like at the Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital come from — I call it physical music."

Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com