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Sykes Chapel Designed in Harmony with Organ

Published: December 06, 2010
 At night, the glow emanating from the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values sets an contemplative mood. It’s as if the building is humming, filling the evening air with its presence.

Through the wall of glass windows, the chapel’s frame towers to the sky. The hallway of arches on the south side of the building appear almost as mirror images, inviting the curious to step in, take a walk and discover what’s inside.

Beginning Dec. 10, the UT and Tampa community will have that chance. The dedication of the chapel will be held at 2 p.m. with tours and the first sounding of the 55-feet-tall, 3,184-pipe Dobson organ named Opus 89. For members of the public who wish to attend, RSVPs are requested at (813) 257-3019.

The Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values has been in the University's master plan since 1996 and was designed to nurture the development of character and values of UT’s 6,500 students.

“It’s stunning,” said Lynn Dobson, president and artistic director of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders in Lake City, IA. “The whole place is.”

It is a rarity for architects and organ builders to work together from the beginning of a project, but this particular organ was designed specifically for this one-of-a-kind building.

“I created nine organ designs for UT about four years ago,” said Dobson. “I looked at the drawings for the chapel and thought about what design would go with this architecture. It was a matter of looking at the building the organ was going into and looking at what kind of organ would harmonize with the architecture.”

The design of the chapel is expressed as two praying hands, sheltering the space within and allowing space and light to pass between them. Brick, granite and zinc make up the building’s exterior. The red brick relates the Sykes Chapel to the red brick construction throughout campus, and the zinc roof references the stainless steel minarets atop Plant Hall.

Construction materials for various details were brought in from as far away as China, Italy and Germany, and an internationally known glass artist contributed to the windows. The Sunrise Garden and Sykes Meditation Garden surrounding the chapel were designed with students in mind, creating a place for them to relax from the hurried pace of campus life.

For Dobson, the organ complements the creations throughout the chapel. As an art educator in his early professional years, Dobson said designing Opus 89 is his expression art these days, just on a large scale.

“I’m basically a sculptor, and this is the ultimate piece of art,” he said. “It’s exciting to hear it come to life.”

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