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Greek-American P. Spillis, Helped Build a Miami Architectural Powerhouse, 88

MIAMI, FL – Peter Spillis, who helped build a nationally recognized architectural powerhouse in his native Miami, passed away at the age of 88 on March 24, the Miami Herald (MH) reported.

For over 30 years, Spillis “helped lead a firm that attained its highest renown as Spillis Candela and Partners, a name once virtually synonymous with modern Miami architecture,” MH reported, adding that “the firm, the oldest in continuous operation in Miami-Dade County, was later absorbed by global architectural and engineering giant AECOM and took its name. The local office remains at the Douglas Entrance building the firm designed in the 1980s in Coral Gables.”

Spillis “handled the business and production side of the firm, longtime partner Hilario Candela said, while he headed design,” MH reported, noting that “both shared the responsibility of nurturing client relationships, making lifelong friendships in the process, Candela said.”

“We had a wonderful relationship,” Candela told MH. “He was very thorough, very organized and very much focused on making sure the firm delivered.”

“At its peak, the firm had about 250 architects and engineers, having grown from a total staff of at most a dozen when he joined in 1961,” Candela told MH, adding that “Spillis was already at the firm when Candela was hired. Both retired in the mid-2000s after AECOM acquired the firm.”

Spillis was a founding member of St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church in Kendall and attended devoutly until his death, the family said. He was also active in philanthropy for the Children’s Home Society and Big Brothers Big Sisters, among others.

Spillis was born in 1932 to John and Melpo Spillis, Greek immigrants and early Miami settlers. He attended Miami High and studied architecture at the University of Florida before serving in U.S. Army intelligence during the Korean War, his family said, MH reported.

He then took a job as architect at the storied Miami firm Pancoast, Ferendino, Skeels & Burnham, founded in 1926 by pioneering Miami Beach architect Russell T. Pancoast, grandson of city founder John S. Collins. In 1971, Candela said, he and Spillis purchased the Pancoast shares and became name partners.

During their 40-plus year tenure at the firm, it was responsible for numerous Miami architectural landmarks, including the Miami Marine Stadium, the University of Miami Mailman Center for Child Development at the Jackson Memorial Hospital campus, several buildings at Miami Dade College campuses, and Museum Tower office high-rise in downtown Miami, as well as the Douglas Entrance office building, which helped save the historic 1920s Coral Gables entranceway.

AECOM acquired the partnership in 2000 and both continued working at the firm until 2004, Candela said. But while he kept working as a consultant, Candela said Spillis, an avid golfer, boater and fisherman, did not.

“Pete knew how to enjoy himself in retirement,” Candela told MH.

Spillis died March 24 in Miami, his family told MH. No cause of death was released.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, the former Electra Varkas; children John, George, Joy and Peter; thirteen grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and sister Frieda Mookas. The funeral service will be private.

A public celebration of his life will take place May 15. Details are available online: peterjohnspillis.com.

Donations in Spillis’ honor may be made to St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church.

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