At night, the glow emanating from the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values sets a contemplative mood. It’s as if the building is humming, filling the evening air with its presence.
Through the wall of glass windows, the center’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.
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 6,738 students.
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 by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders for this one-of-a-kind building.
The design of the center 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 center 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.
People have taken note. The center was recognized in the Hillsborough County Planning Commission’s 29th Annual Community Design Awards Program on April 21, 2011, and Mill-Rite woodworking, owned by UT alumna Jennifer Clark, won an award for Excellence in Construction for its work on the center from the Florida Gulf Coast Region of the Associated Builders and Constructors.
By the Numbers:
- More than 150,000 river pebbles were used in the meditation garden.
- 278 tons of granite was quarried in a mountain in China.
- More than 50 granite blocks were used.
- They were shipped in 17 different vessels
- Each voyage took 30 days
- 20,000 square feet of cherry veneer millwork installed throughout the building
- The 3,184 pipe organ was brought to UT on three tractor trailers and installed over four weeks.
- It took six months to tune and “voice” the organ.