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Center Architecture

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 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.

Facts and Figures - Building Features

The building is located in the geographic center of campus...


  • The building is located in the geographic center of campus. It is 65 feet tall and the building’s footprint is 15,000 sq. ft. The total project is valued at $20 million.
  • The design is expressed as two praying hands, sheltering the space within and allowing space and light to pass between them.
  • Brick, granite and zinc are the primary materials of the exterior. There is a tradition of red brick construction at UT. The zinc roof references the gleaming stainless steel minarets atop Plant Hall.
  • The entrance to the center opens to a pre-function vestibule from which visitors can view the main hall of the chapel.
  • In the center, there is extensive use of glass, warm cherry wood and granite. The use of natural light was an important design element for the main hall. At night, the interior and exterior of the building are lit to glow in a very distinctive and artistic way.
  • The center is an acoustically superior and adaptable space. Careful detailing of the walls, floors, roof, windows and doors isolates the center from outside noise. Background noise from air conditioning and lighting systems has been reduced to very low levels so that instrumental and vocal projection is clearly audible.
  • The main hall of the center seats approximately 260 people. The stage can be expanded using movable platforms. All the furniture was custom designed to echo the unique arch design of the center.
  • To the south of the main hall, a tall arcaded hallway leads to meeting and meditation rooms.
  • Boldly-designed glass decorates all the rooms along the hallway. The glass was designed by Guy Kemper and hand-blown and painted in Germany by a glass painter considered one of the best in the world.
  • The meeting room seats 30, but easily can be divided into two smaller rooms.
  • There are two meditation rooms — one contemporary and one traditional. The contemporary room has a multi-wood labyrinth inlaid in the floor.
  • The building was designed by tvsdesign of Atlanta, GA, and constructed by Peter R. Brown Construction of Clearwater, FL.

Facts and Figures - The Organ

The pipe organ casework stands 55 feet high and has 3,184 pipes...


  • The pipe organ casework stands 55 feet high and has 3,184 pipes. It was designed specifically for this one-of-a-kind building to harmonize with the architecture.
  • It is a Dobson mechanical key action or “tracker” organ — the type of organ preferred by many of the world’s greatest organists.
  • The diverse nature of the University’s music programs required a large and versatile instrument.
  • In addition to the pipes visible from the center, a vast three-story room behind the façade houses many more pipes.
  • The pipes are made of either wood or tin alloy. The horizontal pipes in the center are the herald trumpets and are used for fanfares and special solos. It took six months to tune the pipes.
  • Because of its size, musical quality and the beauty of its setting, the organ will be ranked as a premier instrument in the state and region and among the most notable organs in the country.
  • The concert grand piano was made in Germany by Blüthner, one of the finest piano builders in the world.
  • Although music always has been a key academic program and an important part of UT’s culture, the organ and piano will add a new musical component to the campus and community, enhance UT’s academic music programs and add to the community’s overall music enjoyment and appreciation.

Facts and Figures - Gardens

The landscaping around the building helps to create a peaceful...


  • The landscaping around the building helps to create a peaceful setting. On the center’s east side, seasonal flowers will bloom in the Sunrise Garden. On the west side of the building, the Sykes Meditation Garden provides a contemplative space protected from the hurried pace of campus life.
  • A 7-ton Georgia “Dixie Blue” granite shell-rock and bronze sculpture recognizes John and Susan Sykes for their generous gift which made building the center possible.

    Facts and Figures - Donors

    John and Susan Sykes have been longtime benefactors...


    • John and Susan Sykes have been longtime benefactors of The University of Tampa. In 1999 UT acknowledged John H. Sykes by naming its College of Business in his honor. In 2000 the Sykes made another gift to help build the Vaughn Center.
    • The current chair of UT’s Board of Trustees, Gene McNichols, and his family also contributed significantly to the funding of the center.

    Media Coverage

    The construction and dedication caught the attention of media...

    The construction and dedication of the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values caught the attention of media. The following is a selection of this coverage.

    $20 Million University of Tampa Chapel is a Dream Fulfilled

    Jan. 28, 2011 (The Tampa Tribune) - Dedicated in December, the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values is a place that Stephanie Russell Holz, associate dean of students, hopes will be a place where students can find peace and serenity. "If nothing else, it's a place to come and get relief from stress," she says. "We can take this as a learning experience as well, to open our minds to other cultures and religions. That's a lesson you take with you when you leave campus life, and hopefully make an impact in the outside world."

    Benefactor, Mayor Dedicate UT Chapel

    Dec. 10, 2010 (Tampa Tribune) - The Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values was dedicated on Dec. 10. In her congratulatory remarks, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio heralded how the chapel will aid students on their own for the first time. "It is a time in a young life when young people need an anchor," Iorio said. "They need a center on the campus they can go to and feel at peace, where they can find themselves, where they can ask the important questions and come to their own conclusions. And this Sykes Chapel is that place."
    Similar stories appeared on and Bay News 9.

    UT Construction Adds Space For Chapel, Health, Science Classrooms, Labs

    Aug. 3, 2010 (83 Degrees) - Soon-to-be completed construction projects at the University of Tampa will improve the spiritual, health and intellectual needs of its student body with a new chapel, health center and science building. | Full Story

    University Chapel Fills a Void

    Dec. 2, 2009 (Tampa Tribune) - The $19.5 million Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values is on track for completion in 2010. The chapel, which has been in the university's master plan for more than 20 years, features a large hall vaulting 65 feet high and a plaza with a lighted fountain enhanced with 60 musical bells. Stephanie Russell Holz, associate dean of students and director of the office of student leadership and engagement and who is charge of chapel programming, said the chapel provides an interfaith place for students to engage in meaningful dialog on topics like character building, spiritual development and world cultures and religions.

    UT Benefactors Donate Millions For Chapel

    May 23, 2008 (Tampa Tribune) - This article covers John and Susan Sykes’ multi-million dollar donation to UT to help build the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values. In the article, Sykes was quoted as saying the chapel will “allow people of all faiths to have a place they could go and meditate." A similar story also appeared in the Tampa Bay Business Journal.