Maya Lin


Tribune News Service

VISIONARY. The sharp and minimal design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial garnered Maya Lin national recognition. It is considered one of the most influential memorials of the post WWII period. Lin was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2009, a film about her art, “Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision,” won 1994 Oscar for best documentary, and she was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 by President Barack Obama.

Maya Lin was born on October 5, 1959 in Ohio. She was the daughter of intellectuals who fled China in 1948 before the Communist takeover.She studied architecture and sculpture at Yale University, and graduated with a bachelors in 1981.

During her senior year at Yale, at only age 21, Lin entered a nationwide competition to design a monument to honor soldiers who had served and died during the Vietnam War. She won first prize, and her design was built at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Lin’s design for this memorial was unique and in sharp contrast to the typical design for memorials, which usually included figurative sculpture. Her design was a V-shaped dark granite wall cutting into a hill (slightly below ground level), meant to convey a “wound in the Earth.” It is inscribed with the names of more than 58,000 soldiers killed or MIA during the Vietnam War, listed in order of death or disappearance.

Her design sparked controversy for the unconventional design, the omission of living veterans, the dark granite, her lack of professional experience (she was still an undergraduate), and her ethnicity.

However, after defending her design in front of the U.S. Congress, a compromise was struck. A bronze statue of a group of soldiers and the American flag would be placed next to the design, and the memorial was completed in late October 1982.

Lin has complete a multitude of architectural and sculptural designs throughout her career, including the Women’s Table at Yale University, the Civil Rights Memorial in Alabama, and the Wave Field outdoor installation at the University of Michigan.

To view all of her projects, click here.