Maya Lin

by Tom

Dedicated, persistent, focused, and modern -- all of these words describe Maya Lin. Maya was born on October 5, 1959. She designed the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, the Civil Rights Memorial, Groundswell, The Wave Field, and many other amazing and influential architectural projects. In addition to being an architect, Maya is a sculptor and an artist. She is also the author of a book entitled, Boundaries.

Both of Maya's parents were art-oriented. Her mother was a poet and her father made ceramics. Both of them taught courses at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. She was the co-valedictorian of her high school class and had little trouble getting into Yale. It was there that she enrolled in a class in burial architecture taught by Professor Andrus Burr. He asked her to enter the contest to design a memorial for Vietnam veterans.

Maya Lin was a senior at Yale when her design was chosen as the winner of the contest. The design itself was the object of much controversy. Opponents of the design called it "a black scar in the earth," and were angry that a memorial for Vietnam veterans was designed by a person of Asian origin. After the vitriolic controversy surrounding the design, many of the people who went to see the memorial were surprised at how well the elegant yet simple monument honored those who had died.

Maya's winning design consists of two long black granite walls, intersecting at a 125 degree angle. Each wall is 246.75 feet long and 10.1 feet tall. The walls taper down to a point at each end. The walls contain the 58,175 names of those who died or are listed as MIA in Vietnam during the war. The walls themselves are carved into the earth, so that people descend into the memorial.

Maya Lin is a hero because when her design was under heavy fire from the government and the press, she held her ground, ensuring that a beautiful and moving memorial would be built for all to touch and see.

Page created on 6/7/2004 12:23:39 PM

Last edited 6/7/2004 12:23:39 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Academy of Achievement - Read an interview with Maya Lin. The Academy of Achievement brings students face-to-face with the extraordinary leaders, thinkers and pioneers who have shaped our world.
Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. - National Park Service - Art in the Twenty-first Century: Maya Lin
Maya Lin's Official Website - A stunning visual presentation of her work.
Maya Lin - MY HERO story by Annie from San Francisco

Extra Info

Bibliography: Lin, Maya. Boundaries. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Malone, Mary. Maya Lin: Architect and Artist. Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1988.

“Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.” Great Buildings Online. 1994. January 15, 2001.

“Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial,” World Book 2000. 2000, Vol. 20: 372.

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