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Maya Lin

Artist, Architect & Memorial Designer

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Maya Lin on artistic inspiration and facing the controversy around her now-heralded Vietnam Memorial design.

In nearly three decades of practice, Maya Lin has completed large site-specific art installations, intimate studio works, residential and institutional architecture, and, of course, memorials. It’s a varied oeuvre that draws equally on her training as an artist and as an architect. Lin was a Yale undergraduate when she won the blind competition for design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Washington DC’s National Mall. At 21, she became the youngest architect and first woman, to design a memorial on the National Mall. It was a design that flew in the face of all conventions –  a black granite wall, to be set in the earth as a gash, inscribed the names of all those lost. The selection sparked bitter opposition from veterans' groups, but once constructed, the objections faded. It was a new kind of tribute, born of a new sensibility, and is now seen as a benchmark in memorial architecture.

Lin’s subsequent work has grappled with identity, spirit and the natural world. In 2009 she installed Storm King Wavefield, a permanent site-specific outdoor work for the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, NY. A committed environmentalist, she is at work on her last memorial, What is Missing? a multi-sited artwork that raises awareness about the current crisis surrounding biodiversity and habitat loss.

More From Maya

Give back from the Get-Go
The importance of giving back, at every age.

Girls: Study Math, Study programming
Lin worries that computer science and the Internet is taking the place of business as a male-dominated domain.

The Work/Kids Juggling Act
Working moms can have it all… except for sleep.

A Refute to Tiger Mom
The type of success that Lin's parents stressed flies in the face of the 'Tiger Mom' stereotype.

The Beauty of Art
Maya Lin muses on the beauty and pleasure of art, particularly for the artist.

Designing Memorials
Lin on her series of major memorial commissions and her approach to the past.

A New Idea for Memorials
Lin discusses how her Vietnam Veteran's Memorial design breaks from tradition and attempts to deal with death and sacrifice.

Switching Paths
From zoology to architecture, Lin explains how her career ambitions shifted dramatically in college.

Youth's Armor
Lin describes the powerful self-assurance of youth that helps shield us from prejudice.

A First On the DC Mall
Lin on how she was treated as a very young, female architect.

Power of a Dad's Love
A father's validation can make all the difference in a young girl's confidence.

Growing Up Nerdy
Lin on being obliviously nerdy and academic as a kid.