Prof. Bennett Neiman

"We have found that form•Z is the most versatile and powerful creative 3d design and rendering tool available for designers. The possibilities are endless. The recent improvements in the interface starting with form•Z 7 (and bonZai3d prior) has also made it the easiest tool to learn." Through his own projects and experimentations, Professor Neiman has reached a level of personal expertise in form•Z beyond his earlier imagination, making its reintroduction into this workshop more effective then ever:
Digital media is transforming the teaching and practice of design, offering new ways to see, think, study, and understand architecture. This workshop explores how form•Z enables the study of modeling, light, shade, shadow, color, transparency, translucency, reflectivity, and texture. The workshop uses a systematic approach inspired by Moholy-Nagy’s demonstrations of craftsmanship and visual perception. A series of seven exercises stimulate intuition, experimentation, and analytic observation. The methodology explores the tactics and techniques of space making with a particular emphasis on experiential and sensorial perception.The exercises are as follows: [1] analog-digital captures, [2] analog-digital array, [3] analog-digital sequence strips, [4] digital tracings, [5] digital relief, [6] super relief, and [7] digital painting.


Bennett Neiman holds a Master of Architecture from Yale and Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Cincinnati. He is currently a tenured Professor at Texas Tech University. Professor Neiman has received several honors for a series of self-generated architectural design projects, competitions, and courses involving improvisation, order, and variation of a theme. He received the American Institute of Architects Eduction Honors Award in 1994 and 1998 for his work. He received the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Faculty Design Award in 1990 for Surrealistic Landscapes and in 2006-2006 for bebop SPACES, and as an ACSA Faculty Design Honorable Mention in 2010 for Constructed Improvisations. His students have won the form•Z Joint Studies Program Award of Distinction and the form•Z Joint Studies Program Honorable Mention Award numerous times.
The analog-digital captures exercise requires a digital camera and your eyes. A person’s perception of a physical space comes from experience. Capturing images of space in everyday life forces you to examine your physical experience closely. The experiential quality of the analog space is collapsed into layers of information that present a flattened space. Space appears as a framed image: a literal, yet biased reference to the real. Design is the act of looking, isolating, emphasizing, framing, and freezing the real spatial experience. The site of investigation is a domestic refrigerator. Students are asked to photograph conditions of between, emphasizing intriguing spatial viewpoints: between inside and outside, between light and dark, between open and closed, between movable and static. Selected analog-digital capture prints (4 x 6 or 4 x 4 cards) are organized into logical themes or groupings as a six column by six row analog-digital array. A digital version of the array is reconstructed in Adobe Photoshop.
Several of the analog-digital capture cards are arranged in unique analog-digital sequence strips. This exercise poses intriguing possibilities such as unusual spatial relationships, light, movement, moments of time, ironic twists, discovered rhythms, alignments, continuities, and other ideas of connectivity or overlap. Space and light is evaluated through careful observations and playful discoveries. The objective is to distill the most powerful spaces discovered within the original captures into an invented sequence. The “story” or “visual logic” of each image within the sequence is considered. Multiple combinations of the strips are photographed with a digital camera. Adjustments and crops are accomplished in Adobe Photoshop.
Using a variety of form•Z tools, students make a series of digital tracing diagrams that interpret the hidden underlying forces, geometries, and structures embedded in one of your sequence strips. The source image is examined in terms of: orthogonal schema, tension schema, and architectonic tracing. The architectonics of the sequence strip are developed by emphasizing and articulating the joints and connections of overlapping, interlocking or interpenetrating elements. The tracing diagrams are composited on the source images in wireframe display, exported as JPG images directly from form•Z. In this exercise, design is the dynamic tension between the digital marks you create in form•Z and the underlying image.
The digital relief is a transitional study between two-dimensional and three-dimensional worlds. A digital relief model is constructed in form•Z, using combinations of the orthogonal, tension, and architectonic schemas. The relief model is built by selectively extruding three-dimensional objects from the flat two-dimensional surfaces into solids, voids, projections, depressions, positive, and negative spaces. The super relief consists of duplicated elements and freely arranged combinations of the digital reliefs. In this exercise, design is the interpretive arrangement and composition of sub-assemblies in three-dimensional space. Students exhibited: Dianze Wu, Leonardo Martinez, Megan Christian, Taylor Hanttula and Thao Le.
Lobotomy Machine by Dianze Wu: The process of the poetic experiment is not static, but a self-generating and evolving machine. Finding the tensions, architectonics and possibilities through the investigation can be defined as a lobotomy of the space. The conflicts between the functionalities of the portions creates the initial series of the machine, but the nexus between each machine is generated by the magnitudes of the process. Instead of tracing and repeating, the poetic concentrates on exploring the flexibility of the spaces. The impacts between the models and the process are the cue that the process will be endless.
Manufactured Preservation by Leonardo Martinez: As to the refrigerator; a box, a room, a cabinet – a spatial device for the use of preservation in a cooled state. The preservation of architectural space does not truly exist, but is instead manufactured through the sequential overlay of assemblies and captured in shadows by the underlying organization of mass and plane. Consequently, any given form of architectural space is then dissolved within a hostile atmosphere of doubt. Overlap establishes presence and not repetitiveness as the human eye may initially perceive. The presence is a necessity for the survival of space where it is not meant to be preserved.
Landscape of Deceit by Megan Christian: There is no truth. Every attempt at cognition is framed infinitely through other lenses that cannot be perceived. What we observe is our own projection of some imperceptible reality. We obscure truthful essence through surfaces and planes, objects and buildings – normative shapes that deny all sensitivities of the real bounds of energy within. These imperceptible energy systems are vastly mistaken for their tangible whole, and the subtle truths layered within – exchanging, ever-moving – become inconsequential compared to the formative lie. Interior energy creates and amplifies the derivative splendor seen on the exterior. The dynamics of invisible, in-between life are greater teachers than the models they appear as.
Evolving Parasite by Taylor Hanttula: The ever-changing angularity and curvature interact as a continual architectural engagement that exploits the imagination. A convoluted structure begins to form the depths of the unknown. Sharp angularity defines a trajectory towards the exploration of the infinite. The infinite line pierces through mass and space as an interruption to another. Each projection becomes an opportunity for the distortion of spaces that are resultants of the infinite line. Illusions from shadows, contrast, and translucency further extend the depth of projection. Developing in its own environment, the parasite structure grows from itself as an endless evolution.
Morphed by Thao Le: The engine is concerned with the lives it touches. Life produces a system in full force. No two systems are alike. The developed system is a city or society.The city or society is the product of pragmatic structure and circulation.Structure and circulation are made with the absence of the universe.The universe is fluid and volatile, creating an environment.The environment starts an engine.And the engine becomes possible because of the lives that are there.
What became the poetics media workshop, was first launched by Professor Neiman at the University of Colorado at Denver in spring 1988. form•Z was introduced as the preferred 3D tool in fall 1992, replacing Architrion II. Immediately the students could see amazing opportunities even though they and their instructor were limited in knowledge of this software. It took a while to figure out an effective pedagogy. From the beginning, once introduced to the basics, students were allowed to explore the software as deeply as they desired to accomplish their design intentions. Students tended to know more about the software then the instructor.

Many of the first exercises introduced in 1992 were marginally successful. Over the years these same exercises were re-examined, each time yielding better and better results. Classes taught at University of Colorado in Boulder in 1998-1999 took the pedagogy using form•Z to a new level. Between 2005 to 2009, at Texas Tech, the techniques and the work advanced to its highest level, resulting in several form•Z awards for students. Last fall’s class was a re-introduction to exercises introduced 10 years earlier.