Iuka, a small town in Tishomingo County in northeast Mississippi, is the site of a large new NASA and Lockheed/Aerojet rocket engine production facility, which is expected to create 1,500 jobs. Many of these will be filled by transferred employees.
To encourage these employees to live in the area, as well as to serve local residents, Mississippi’s Department of Economic and Community Development is investing in an innovative new high school for 800 students. A major goal is to design the school as a lively, active Community Learning Center with public access to many of the facilities. Community members’ hand prints, cast in plaster, will be incorporated into the decoration of the buildings.
The following is an excerpt from the Project Synopsis for Iuka/Tishomingo School prepared by Steven Bingler. Contact Bingler at Concordia Architects, 621 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, 504/525-1862.
Architectural Exhibitry: Math and Science * The central plaza that provides for circulation between the center’s primary educational components also illustrates math and science (astronomical, geometric and ecological) principles in a tangible exhibit.
Iuka and Tishomingo were both chiefs of the native American Chickasaw Nation. The movement of the sun and stars was integral to their cosmology. The building’s secondary axis aligns to the east with the sunrise on the summer solstice and to the west with sunset on the winter solstice.
A series of five towers on the plaza’s southern periphery commemorate the sun’s position at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on the summer and winter solstice as the sun pierces apertures in the towers and focuses on a map of the world with Iuka Tishomingo at the center. A sixth tower aligns with a 35-degree triangular incline pointing to Polaris, the north star.
The triangular incline also serves (because of astronomical geometric alignments) as an element of a 70-foot long elliptical sundial that tracks time continuously and casts shadows across the sundial’s face. The numbers of the sundial are large enough to serve as benches where students can sit and watch the geometry of the universe in motion.
A low-powered laser located in the Polaris Tower casts a harmless red beam down the triangular inclination, where it strikes Iuka/Tishomingo at the center of the world map and is reflected vertically by a mirror along a geocentric axis. Along the inside face of the circular covered walkway are markings delineating compass bearings. The plaza paving, which is also made of local stone, also delineates the cardinal directions by color, yellow for the east, white for the south, red for the west, and black for the north, in accordance with Chickasaw Indian tradition.