surrealistic landscapes 1990

In 1990, Professor Neiman was a recipient of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Design Award, "for recognition of outstanding work in architecture and related environmental design fields as a theoretical endeavor, to promote architecture as a reflective discipline."

The sponsors for the The May 4th Memorial Competition, Kent State University required an apolitical approach to creating a memorial for the events of May 4, 1970. The designer responded to this absurd request with an abstracted, “black humor” strategy. The Memorial occupies the hillside facing the Commons where the Kent State riots began. The Memorial acts as a viewing platform for the riotous events, or as a metaphorical rock concert stage with its lead players poised for action. Projected in front of the stage are five totemic characters, four of which represent the murdered students. A fifth character, located at center, is for the student who was shot and paralyzed for life. It is wheelchair accessible. Elongated pipes projecting from a backdrop wall are aimed at the backs of each of the characters. The memorial is a machine which evokes images of military hardware, machine guns, bayonets, and tanks. The platform and the peripherally located vertical pipes represent the Commons. Surrounding spectators view an almost comic scene of soldiers with bayonets positioned on youths throwing flowers and smoking tear gas canisters.

The memorial attempts to recreate the events of May 4th according to the absurdly stated apolitical goals of the competition sponsors. Does this memorial favor the students or the soldiers? Were the victims of the Kent State tragedy innocent bystanders walking to class or a group of radical thugs bent on bringing down the nation? In either case, death could have chosen anyone. The five characters act as places where anyone can for a moment, view and remember, through a clear mask/shield, the senseless events of May 4th 1970. The viewer can also become one of the soldiers taking aim.

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