Water for the Spirit

The homelands of the Chickasaw were rooted in the southeastern states of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee and these places are the spiritual heart of the Chickasaw Nation. With their strong connection to the land there has always been a commitment to good stewardship of the earth that provides for their prosperity.

The Chickasaw culture and heritage have always had roots in nature and the elements and water has always been an important and spiritual part of their life. They typically developed their settlements along rivers and historically dominated much of the waterways between the Gulf of Mexico and the Ohio valley region. The waterways also provided an opportunity for trade which greatly benefited the tribe.

With water having such a strong influence on the history and culture of the Chickasaw, it was decided during the design phase to incorporate a water feature as a part of the Visitor Center to make this element a part of the experience for visitors.

The water feature wraps around the west and south sides of the Visitor Center and varies in width from 5 to 9 feet. There is a large pool at the top and another at the bottom with five intermediate pools in between. The water in each pool is 6 inches deep and it flows over a spillway from each pool to the next lower pool. The water drops 3 feet 3 inches over a distance of 56 feet. The entire length of the water feature is about 96 feet. There is an LED light source located below the spillway of each pool that will provide an array of colors on command and bring the water feature to life as the sun fades from the day.

There are circulating pumps located in the mechanical crawl space that pump the water from the lower level to the top pool where the journey for the water starts. When the water reaches the lower pool, it starts its journey all over again. There is a holding tank in the mechanical space which collects the water from the lowest pool through a drain. The pumps draw water from the tank and send it to the upper pool. There is a water line to the tank that replaces any water that may evaporate from the water feature keeping the system full.

There is a drain in the bottom of every pool which allows the water feature to be drained empty for winter or maintenance purposes. There is also an over flow drain in the lowest pool should the water feature get over filled on occasion. The drains all flow into the sanitary sewer system.

Water features are more complex than meets the eye. The visitor only sees and experiences the continuous flow of water as it travels and falls from pool to pool in a playful dance to the lower level. However, every aspect of the water feature had to be researched, designed and planned. Only then was it ready to be drawn in detail in the construction drawings. The detailing of the various aspects of the water feature shows up on the civil, structural, architectural and plumbing drawings.

This process of working out the details is typical of every element of the project. It’s the challenge that the architects and engineers have in creating a set of documents that communicates to the construction team how to build the project piece by piece .

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Filed under Background, Design, Materials

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