February 26, 2006
Architect is music to family's ears - literally
Hanawalt creates house that carries a tuneNORTHPORT - There are good vibrations in Anna and Jonathan Wege's Northport house.
Architect David Hanawalt designed the Chicago couple's second home on Cathead Bay to take in the sounds of the waves, the trees and the wind.
It also makes music of its own.
The Weges' children - Konrad, 6; and Lillian, 4 - love it.
"Konrad is quite keen on the fact that the house makes music," Anna said. "They play it all the time."
So how do they "play" their house?"
They wear gloves with rosin on them, like the rosin violinists use on their bows, and rub strings tuned to scales in some of the home's beams. The house also lets in and amplifies the sweet nature sounds from outside. The windows open at different angles, depending on how the sound is coming in.
"The windows act like ears," Anna said.
The great room is shaped like an auditorium to better accommodate sound waves.
Hanawalt proposed the idea of the "Symphonic House" to the Weges as they were looking to build a new house on a plot of land they'd had for years.
Hanawalt, whose office is in Suttons Bay, likes to build homes with a "story," he said. For example, a home he designed for a magician has hidden rooms, a bed that can move from inside to a screened porch and other magical features. He designed another that imitates the lines of nearby dunes and has windows that let the sun in at particular angles during the solstices.
As Hanawalt looked at different themes for the Weges' home, he noticed the rich natural sounds on the lot.
"If you close your eyes, you can hear the site," he said.
He also remembered wind-driven harps he'd seen in San Francisco in his youth, which sounded "eerie, but beautiful."
Also, about that time, he heard from a friend of Bill Close in Malibu, CA. Close has designed long-string harps - like the one now in the Weges' home - for the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Space Needle in Seattle, among other public places.
Hanawalt proposed the idea for a musical house, complete with six harps to be designed by Close.
"We were intrigued and excited," Anna said.
The house has exceeded their expectations, said Jonathan Wege, a consultant to international businesses on environmentally sustainable development.
"When you're putting something together on paper and visualizing it, it's one thing," he said. "But the sound is more fulfilling than we ever expected.
"When I'm not there, I think about it."
Since the home was completed in 2003, Close has "performed" there, playing the strings built into the home along with a professional violinist. Close also tunes the strings in the house from time to time, Jonathan said.
The house is "inspirational" for both the parents and the children, Jonathan said.
"It's quite a big part in their lives," he said. "I think it's made them be more creative in their sounds and songs."
To hear the symphonic house, visit symphonichouse.com.