|Tiny, Maya Ling Lin is a woman of amazing
reserve, self control, and dignity - as well as an architectural genius.
MLL was still an architectural
student at Yale University when her professor asked all of his students
to submit designs for the competition to choose a fitting memorial to Americans
killed in Viet Nam.
She visited the proposed site for the monument and
later said of it, "you couldn't desecrate
In one direction is the Lincoln Memorial and in the
Washington Memorial. The monument to honor the men and women who were involved
in the Korean conflict would rise nearby as would the monument to President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Nearby is the first memorial dedicated to the
women nurses who fought to save lives during wartime while under personal
danger and at times losing their own lives.
Her simple design of a wall fading into the distance
of a small valley was chosen the best of 1,420 entries by a committee of
Nam veterans. However, it was soon condemned as a "degrading
ditch, a wall of shame" and even worse
. . .one of our citizens announced: "We
can't have our memorial built by a gook."
Multi-millionare H. Ross Perot flew veterans to Washington
by the planeload to protest Lin's design. He almost get enough support
to erect a traditional statue of heroic men with an American flag draped
around them situated in the center of the wall.
A compromise was reached and Frederick Hart's traditional
soldier statue - which had finished third in the competition Lin won -
was erected at the entrance to the area where the wall was built, but the
wall itself was not changed.
The dedication was a 48-hour vigil during which the
names of the 58,000 dead and missing men soldiers listed on the wall were
read. Not only was the wall dedicated without once mentioning Maya Ling
Lin's name, but she was not even invited to attend!
Even the cover of dedication program had Hart's statue
pictured, not the wall. . .and yet within a few months the wall had become
and remains one of the most honored and moving memorials in our nation's
To come to that wall is like seeing the waves of black
granite headstones reaching on and on . . . then seeing your living self
reflected on the shiny black stone over the names of our dead incised in
it has the viewer become one with the memorial - an experience that brings
tears in just remembering.
A rededication was held a number of years after the
first dedication in what some called the veteran's and national apology
to the designer. This time Maya Lin was invited. Remarkably she spoke without
rancor and with dignity - continuing her amazing dignified self control
- giving the dead the homage that their fellow soldiers did not by their
She has never once referred to the design controversy
nor the attacks of her ethnic background with bitterness.
Lin also designed the 1989 Civil Rights Memorial in
Birmingham, Alabama, where viewers' tears become part of the monument .
. . The fingers of viewers trace the important dates and personages of
the Black Civil Rights movement through a light coating of moving water.
She then designed Yale University's Woman's Table
that is literally a large table of green granite incised on the surface
with a spiraling design of the years being counted off from the university's
founding in 1701 through 1991(the year of the monument's dedication).
Next to each year is the number of women enrolled
at Yale for that year. The stark march of 268 zeroes calls attention to
the 268 years there was no room at Yale's educational table for women.
It is a devastating revelation of men's disdain for women's rights. The
table is set at a 69- degree angle to its base to commemorate the date
of 1969 when the first women were admitted to Yale.
MLL's next major project was the memorial in Seneca
Falls, New York, where viewers step down into the memorial as a symbolic
honoring of the women who birthed the women's movement in America.
Water rolls gently over the names of the brave women
who defied social and legal convention to sign the Sentiment of Rights
at their convention in the 1848.
In 1994 MLL's translucent clock, Eclipsed Time, was
installed in the ceiling of Penn Station in New York City. It has been
described as looking much like a flying saucer with the 4.3-m (14-ft)-wide
elliptical frosted glass clock illuminated from above. A metal disk, moves
slowly across the glowing oval, casting an ever-changing shadow on the
numerals below with 12:00 being a total eclipse.
MLL also designs great modern houses as well as having
designed the interior of a Black cultural museum in New York.
One of her most unusual non-architectural projects
was a free-form design of glass pellets in shades of blue that were poured
into a free flowing design on the wrap-around balcony of an art institute.
It was stunning! Another one of her major artistic directions flows from
the designs that occur when glass sheets break.
Maya Ling Lin's mother was a literature professor
and her father a ceramist and dean of fine arts at Ohio State University.
Her aunt also studied architecture at Yale.
Maya Lin who was born 10-05-1959 in the small city
of Athens, Ohio.
The author of Women of Achievement and Herstory has
been fortunate enough to have seen three of MLL's creations. Go out of
your way to see them! There is an amazing movement and depth to her work
that causes one to look inward. Emotion is pulled from you, not forced
A fascinating documentary of MLL's life won honors
and is available from several documentary film rental companies.