Posted in projects on February 27, 2014 7:10 pm EST

Spiritual, Aesthetic and Artistic Illumination

University of Tampa (UT) chapel center shines from within

The University of Tampa’s Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values conjure a feeling of both enduring beauty and quiet spirituality.











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TAGS: addition, chapel,


By Church Designer Staff

Like cupped hands seeming to capture the Florida sunlight between them, the soaring twin arcs of The University of Tampa’s Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values conjure a feeling of both enduring beauty and quiet spirituality. The silver-blue patina of the Chapel Center’s metal roof echoes the stainless steel minarets of the university’s historic Plant Hall just beyond.

The facility was designed to elicit spiritual, sensory and emotional responses by building users. The play of sunlight through skylights, stained art glass and light-scattering prisms uplift the visual senses. Rich, durable materials and textures, from polished stone, cherry wood paneling, and brick, to natural boulders and plantings of the Sykes Meditation Garden, appeal to the sense of touch.

The spiritual nature of the space also is expressed by the “free-floating” wood glue-laminated arch connections at the top of the main hall that give the appearance of unobstructed openness to the sky above. The simple, curved forms of the Chapel Center’s roof are recalled in other design elements such as walls of the entry foyer and custom stainless steel door pulls. Building scale is intentionally reduced at the exterior chapel elevation with inviting brick arcade and human-scaled canopies. Masonry arcades flank the main hall, structurally bolstering the symmetrical composition.

Catering to UT’s nine religious organizations, the campus at large and the Tampa community, the Sykes Chapel Center accommodates a variety of activities. The main hall of the chapel was designed without fixed seating. With an open floor plan, it can host a variety of events, from an annual concert series to UT’s Spirituality and Film Series to ceremonies with varying seating arrangements and orientations. The meeting rooms adjacent to the main hall can be subdivided to accommodate several functions simultaneously. Even the main hall’s pre-function space doubles as a small art gallery or informal gathering area.

Funding for the Chapel Center was provided through a lead gift from the building’s namesakes—John and Susan Sykes—with a significant funding contribution from the McNichols family.

University of Tampa President Ronald L. Vaughn believed the holistic development of students would be enhanced by programs and a facility that helps students examine and reflect upon the kind of person they want to be and the purpose of their lives. His beliefs were reinforced by national studies that document the need for greater focus on character, values and spiritual development as part of a well-rounded liberal education.

“It’s difficult to understand the world and different cultures without an understanding of world religions,” Vaughn says. “Religion permeates U.S. history, almost every culture and the lives of billions of people, politics, and countless decision made throughout the world.”  continued >>