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Published: August 05, 2021

Construction Underway at UT for Phase II of Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values

The University of Tampa (UT) announced today that phase II of the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values – centered by the world’s largest and most technologically advanced Ars Sonora® musical bell sculpture – is underway.

Funded generously by Susan and John Sykes, the project has been in development for more than two decades and is part of UT’s master plan.

Tower at night
University of Tampa President Ronald Vaughn and his wife, Renée, consider the Ars Sonora an example of their commitment to looking at the University experience in a holistic manner, nurturing student development and helping to prepare students to live their lives as responsible citizens.

The new Sykes Plaza just north of the chapel will be a carefully planned gathering place with benches, shade trees and grassy areas that will offer the University community a multipurpose space for inspiration, reflection and entertainment. The plaza is designed in the shape of a lotus blossom, which in many cultures is a symbol of enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth.

In the center of Sykes Plaza will be the Ars Sonora musical bell sculpture, which will be named the Susan and John Sykes Ars Sonora. The Ars Sonora, a stainless-steel sculpture towering 105 feet tall, will be adorned with 63 bronze bells.

Using technology perfected by the Paccard Bell Foundry in Annecy, France, the bells will be connected to an electronic piano keyboard that will allow musicians to play with nuances that no other bell structure in the world can produce.

The Ars Sonora can be played by a musician at concerts and special events. At the base of the Ars Sonora, a majestic fountain will add a stimulating sight-and-sound experience to the plaza.

“The Sykes Plaza and the Ars Sonora reflect our emphasis on looking at the University experience in a holistic manner,” said Ronald L. Vaughn, president of The University of Tampa. “It will further complement the Sykes Chapel, as a way to show our commitment to focusing on values and developing the character of our students.”

The plaza and Ars Sonora are expected to be completed in 2022.

UT’s Ars Sonora is another example of the indelible impact that Susan and John Sykes have made on The University of Tampa and the Tampa community. In addition to funding the Ars Sonora, they helped fund the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values, the Vaughn Center, and the Sykes College of Business facility, and endowed UT’s Center for Ethics, among other contributions.

“Seeing this chapel built was emotional,” said John Sykes, founder and chairman emeritus of Tampa-based Sykes Enterprises, Inc. “And to see the connectivity to come, with the plaza and Ars Sonora, it’s just unbelievable.”

“We share Dr. Vaughn’s belief in the importance of building the character of the student on campus,” Susan Sykes said. “That’s why we were very excited to be a part of the building of the chapel, and now, to be completing this place of inspiration and reflection with the Ars Sonora and plaza.”

More about the Susan and John Sykes Ars Sonora

Of the Ars Sonora’s 63 bells, 61 will each play a different note, with a dynamic striker hitting the bell immediately after the corresponding piano key has been played. (The two other bells on the structure are ornamental.) Unlike traditional carillon bells, which musicians play by striking wooden batons with their fists, the Ars Sonora is played on an electronic piano keyboard. This offers the musician the ability to better control the speed, volume and dynamic range of the notes.

The Ars Sonora’s bells are being manufactured in Annecy, France, at the Paccard Bell Foundry, a family business that has been manufacturing world-famous bells since 1796. Because of their bells’ unique profile, exacting bronze metal mixture and tuning perfection, Paccard bells are considered the “Stradivarius of Bells.”

Ars Sonora bells
The largest of the four swinging bells in the Susan and John Sykes Ars Sonora is the Sykes bell, which is approximately 6 feet tall and weighs 5,000 pounds. It bears the name “Susan and John Sykes Ars Sonora” and is inscribed with the Sykes’ quote, “May These Bells Bring Inspiration to All.” Photo by Fonderie PACCARD © Yannick Perrin

The Paccard Bell Foundry created the concept of the Ars Sonora – which, in Latin, loosely translates to “Art of Sound” – in 1999. Since then, Paccard’s electrical engineers have been constantly refining the state-of-the-art software and specialized dynamic strikers placed inside the bells of the Ars Sonora, and the design and capabilities of UT’s musical structure mark the next step in this process.

“The UT Ars Sonora will offer any pianist a new and unique instrument that can produce extremely nuanced music from the bells,” said Philippe Paccard of the Paccard Bell Foundry. “It will be a masterpiece of art and music, and marks the next step in the evolution of musical bell structures.”

The Ars Sonora will feature three swinging bells known as the UT bells, each adorned with the University’s seal and inscribed with its motto Esse Quam Videri – “to be, rather than to seem.” The fourth and largest swinging bell is the Sykes bell, which is approximately 6 feet tall and weighs 5,000 pounds, bears the name “Susan and John Sykes Ars Sonora,” and is inscribed with the Sykes’ quote, “May These Bells Bring Inspiration to All.”

Approximately 6 miles of wiring will connect the keyboard to each of the 61 dynamic strikers, and the first-of-its-kind sculpture also has four swinging bell motors and 147 lights. Designed to withstand Category 5 hurricanes and wind speeds beyond 160 miles per hour, the Ars Sonora will also have six lines of defense for lightning protection, including power surge protection devices and a stainless-steel skin that’s connected to a grounding loop below ground.

The bells for the UT Ars Sonora were first pre-mounted with their dynamic strikers and tested at Paccard’s workshop. Then, the bells were shipped to Chambéry, France, where steel manufacturer Satil is fabricating the support structure. After the bells are attached to the structure and re-tested, the Ars Sonora will be disassembled and shipped to UT, where it will be reconstructed on campus.

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