Ancient & Modern Maya Lin

Maya Lin Maya LinMaya Lin "I saw the Vietnam Veterans Memorial not as an object placed into the earth but as a cut in the earth that has then been polished, like a geode. Interest in the land and concern about how we are polluting the air and water of the planet are what make me want to travel back in geologic time-to witness the shaping of the earth before man."

~ Maya Lin, architect of the Civil Rights and Vietnam Veteran's Memorials
Smithsonian Magazine

The Virtual Wall: A Vietnam Veterans Memorial Tour

The Virtual Wall offers a unique experience for each visitor. The site includes close-up photos, slides, and virtual reality experiences of actually touching and reading the wall. Also includes veteran profiles, remembrances, reunion postings, name rubbings, custom reports, and more...

According to MilitaryCity, "Maya Lin, the designer, conceived her design as creating a park within a park — a quiet protected place that was unto itself yet harmonized with the overall plan of Constitution Gardens. To achieve that effect, she chose polished black granite for the walls. Its mirror-like surface reflects the images of the surrounding trees, lawns and monuments. The walls point to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, thus bringing the Memorial into the historical context of our country. The names are inscribed in the chronological order of the date of casualty, showing the war as a series of individual sacrifices and giving each name a special place in history."

Thoughts by Maya Lin on the Vietnam Memorial...

"The Vietnam memorial is a place where something happens within the viewer. It's like reading a book. I purposely had the names etched ragged right on each panel to look like a page from a book," Lin said.

"I also wanted remembering the past relevant to the present. Some people wanted me to put the names in alphabetical order. I wanted them in chronological order so that a veteran could find his time within the panel. It's like a thread of life."

Art & Ecology: Maya Lin
Maya Lin designs Arts Plaza for UCI

    The heart of the project, says Lin, is the drawing table. Many of her designs, notably the Vietnam memorial, feature a large, flat stone surface inscribed with text that visitors can trace with their fingers. For the Arts Plaza, she replaced text with "a simple line drawing that takes its shape as a bubbling line of water on the surface."

    "You may think you actually see the water drawing a line," Lin said. 'Text has been reduced to the mark of the human hand, so you realize, 'This is a school of the arts.'"

Biography of Maya Lin (PBS Artists Pages)

"Born in 1959 in Athens, Ohio, Maya Lin catapulted into the public eye when, as a senior at Yale University, she submitted the winning design in a national competition for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be built in Washington, D.C. She was trained as an artist and architect, and her sculptures, parks, monuments, and architectural projects are linked by her ideal of making a place for individuals within the landscape. Lin, a Chinese-American, came from a cultivated and artistic home. Her father was the dean of fine arts at Ohio University; her mother is a professor of literature at Ohio University. "As the child of immigrants you have that sense of, Where are you? Where's home? And trying to make a home," remarks Lin. She draws inspiration for her sculpture and architecture from culturally diverse sources, including Japanese gardens, Hopewell Indian earthen mounds, and works by American earthworks artists of the 1960s and 1970s..."

Includes photos of four works by Maya Lin:

    Topographical Landscape
    Vietnam Veteran's Memorial
    Wave Field

Maya Lin's Peace Chapel

    "The Peace Chapel is an environmental landscape site designed by architect Maya Lin. It occupies a 14-acre site within the 170-acre Baker-Henry Nature Preserve. Located near the Juniata College campus, the Peace Chapel provides a contemplative setting within the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania.

    "Designed and constructed in 1988-1989, the Peace Chapel consists of two sites. The larger site is defined by a 40-foot circle of rough granite stones that line a shallow well at the top of a hill. A series of smoothly polished granite steps lead from the footpath up to the circle of stones. The smaller site occupies the top of a slightly higher neighboring hill. This smaller site consists of a 4-food diameter smooth granite disk set within the forest that blankets the hill. From the disk one can peer through the trees to the distant hill and view the larger circle of stones."

Maya Lin's Systematic Landscapes

An array of fascinating photos from a 2006 Exhibition at ARCSPACE, and much to read and learn from. Includes (above): A 2x4 Landscape "composed of more than fifty thousand vertical two-by-four boards placed in a configuration minutely detailed in models and drawings" and a view along a boardwalk over restored wetlands, part of six monumental projects by Lin along the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington — read more at the Confluence Project website.

Great Buildings Online - Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial

    Downloadable 3-D Site & Massing Model, here showing steps descending from the right. Page includes commentary by Maya Lin and others.

    "As you descend the path along the wall and reach this angle, you realize that one wing of the black wall points straight at the tall, white Washington Monument a mile or so off, and the other at the Lincoln Memorial, visible through a screen of trees about 600 feet away. In making this descent you feel you're entering a cloistered space, set off from the busy surroundings. Streets and skylines disappear to leave you alone with the wall and its names. Then, as you pass the angle and begin to climb, you feel yourself emerging again into the world of noise and light after a meditative experience."

    —Robert Campbell, "An Emotive Place Apart," A.I.A. Journal, May 1983, pp. 150-1

Maya Lin Sketch for the 9/11 Memorial Design
Maya Lin design (left) & final design (right) for 9/11 Memorial
(click images to zoom, use back button to return)

    Maya Lin is not credited as the designer of the 9/11 memorial called "Reflecting Absence," submitted by Michael Arad, but according to the "New York Times," an early sketch she drew for "The New York Times Magazine" had two pools and a grove of trees just as the winning design did. There has been no particular controversy regarding the resemblence of the accepted design and Lin's sketch (see above left), since Maya Lin was herself a juror on the 13-member design committee. However the Times article by David W. Dunlap and Glenn Collins, published January 8, 2004, states, "Public attention has focused on the possibly persuasive role played by one juror, Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. She sketched out a proposal for the memorial in "The New York Times Magazine" of Sept. 8, 2002, that bears a superficial resemblance to Reflecting Absence."

    The finished design (above right) was revised by Peter Walker, a California landscape architect; and Daniel Libeskind, the site's lead architect, and "will add lusher landscaping" and create "an underground center to house artifacts," according to a Times update on January 14, 2004.

Video & DVD: "Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision"

    "Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision is a portrait of the Chinese American artist/architect/sculptor who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial while an undergraduate student at Yale University. The film tells the gripping story behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and explores a decade of her creative work." Now on DVD, available from

    Review of Freida Lee Mock's Oscar-winning documentary (The San Francisco Chronicle)

    "The film is absolutely riveting in its look back at the emotion-packed hearings about the memorial, the political controversies swirling around it, the grief- choked testimony of veterans, and the beautifully sad interaction of the endless thousands who find catharsis visiting the wall, reading the names, pondering death and seeing their reflections in its black surface.

    "The film makes it clear that Lin is a woman of almost ferocious conviction. In intimate moments she is shown working in her spartan New York City studio, cutting pieces for an architectural model, and breaking glass for a rooftop installation at an Ohio art museum."

    Other Reviews:

    The Washington Post (Linton Weeks)

"Making the Memorial" by Maya Lin, New York Review of Books


    "On a personal level, I wanted to focus on the nature of accepting and coming to terms with a loved one's death. Simple as it may seem, I remember feeling that accepting a person's death is the first step in being able to overcome that loss.

    "I felt that as a culture we were extremely youth-oriented and not willing or able to accept death or dying as a part of life. The rites of mourning, which in more primitive and older cultures were very much a part of life, have been suppressed in our modern times. In the design of the memorial, a fundamental goal was to be honest about death, since we must accept that loss in order to begin to overcome it. The pain of the loss will always be there, it will always hurt, but we must acknowledge the death in order to move on." (November 2, 2000)

Civil Rights Memorial

    When Center officials decided in 1988 to build a memorial to honor victims of the Civil Rights Movement, board member Eddie Ashworth thought immediately of Maya Lin. Seven years earlier, when she was a 21-year-old senior at Yale, Lin was chosen in a national competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That memorial had proven to be a place of healing, a place where, as one veteran described, "the living and dead could meet."

    Maya Lin: National Women's History Month Honoree
    "'I work with the landscape, and I hope that the object and the land are equal partners.'
    "One of the rare few who has managed to forge a path in both art and architecture, Maya Lin is a sculptor, architect, designer, and craftswoman. Lin has consciously resisted divisions between architecture and design or fine and applied art."

Interview with Maya Lin
(NRDC - Natural Resources Defense Council )


Q: "Tell me about your involvement with the Presidio Advisory Council."

A: "The Presidio is a former military base that is being turned into a National Park. So I said to the other members on the Council, "Let's think conceptually about that word 'defense.' Instead of defense in the sense of war, let's talk about defense of the planet — protecting it, and being its true steward." So my position was: Why not make the Presidio a case study — from the building end, from the transportation end, from the point of view of energy efficiency — and learn how to make it less harmful to the environment."

Maya Lin's Landscape Sculpture, "The Wave Field"

    from FXB Foundation:

    "'The Wave Field' (click here for a closeup view) is located next to and completes the François-Xavier Bagnoud Building, which opened in 1993, and was underwritten by the family foundation named for François-Xavier Bagnoud, a former student in aerospace engineering at the university in Ann Arbor.

    "A pure earth sculpture, made entirely of soil covered with grass, 'The Wave Field' collapses the boundaries between nature and art, earth and water, object and pedestal. The sculpture, which took over two years to complete, is approximately 90 feet by 90 feet square. The waves, which rise from the natural ground plane to five or six feet high, make a subtle transition into the piece, blurring the distinction between the sculpture and the space in which it exists."

    Maya Lin describes "The Wave Field" as "...pure poetry. It is a very gentle space that exists on a very human scale. It is a sanctuary, yet it's playful, and with the changing shadows of the sun, it is completely transformed throughout the day. 'The Wave Field' expresses my desire to completely integrate a work with its site, revealing the connectedness of art to landscape, or landscape as art."

Langston Hughes Library, Clinton, Tennessee

"Thanks to Barnes and Noble Chair Len Riggio and his wife Louise, an exquisite library designed by Maya Lin was dedicated on March 19, 1999, to our great Black bard.

"It includes the John Hope Franklin-Maya Angelou reading room, a Mrs. Rosa Parks sitting area, and a meeting room which can accommodate 75. Young people and all who come to Haley Farm for training and fellowship are able to conduct research; read about and meditate on great heroes, heroines, writers, and thinkers; and be exposed to the best quality children's literature by authors and illustrators of African descent and on Black experiences."

Other Architectural / Earth Works of Interest by Maya Lin...

Museum for African Art (Interior), New York
The Women's Table at Yale University
New York University's Asian Pacific American Studies Institute

(Publication Date: November 2006) SYSTEMATIC LANDSCAPES by Maya Lin: "Utilizing the way in which scientists and computers see our world, drawing on images based on sonar views of the ocean floor, to aerial and satellite views of the land, I have started to create artworks that translate that technological view into sculptural forms." (Maya Lin)

Click image for full cover
(see also Stanford University's Maya Lin: Bibliography of Books and Periodicals)

BOUNDARIES, by Maya Ying Lin. From review; "Understandably, Lin writes in greatest detail about the Vietnam memorial, a high-profile commission fraught with controversy because of its unusual form as well as the age, gender, and ethnicity of its American-born architect. But this engrossing, amply illustrated book also details the thinking and experimentation behind myriad other projects, including elemental sculptures, interiors, and furniture designed with an unusual degree of consideration for the user's needs." 224 pages (October 2000) Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 0684834170

Children's Books

Maya Lin : Honoring Our Forgotten Heroes (Everyone Contributes) by Bob Italia. Abdo & Daughters,1993, ISBN: 1562392344.

Maya Lin : Architect and Artist (People to Know). Enslow Publishers, Inc., January 1995, ISBN: 089490499X.

The story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by David K. Wright. Chicago : Childrens Press, c1989.

Other Books of Interest

Earthworks and beyond: contemporary art in the landscape, by John Beardsley. Rev. ed. New York : Abbeville Press, 1989 (highly recommended, see cover).

The Wall : images and offerings from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, conceived by Sal Lopes ; introduction by Michael Norman. New York : Collins, 1987. 128 p.

To heal a nation : the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by Jan C. Scruggs and Joel L. Swerdlow. New York : Harper & Row, c1985.