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Maya Ying Lin (born October 5, 1959) is an American designer, architect, and artist who is known for her work in sculpture and. She achieved national recognition at the age of 21 while still an undergraduate at Yale University when her design was chosen in a national competition for the in Washington, D.C. It is considered one of the most influential memorials of the post-World War II period.

Lin has completed designs for other memorials, as well as for numerous public and private buildings, landscape design, and sculpture. Although Lin's most well known sculptures and architectural work are historical memorials, she also works to memorialize nature through her environmentally themed works. In creating works which deal with the depleting environment, Lin aims to raise awareness for the environment for audiences in urban spaces.


Early life[]

Maya Lin was born in. Her parents had migrated to the United States from China, her father in 1948 and her mother in 1949, and settled in Ohio before Maya was born. Her father, Henry elegant Huan Lin, born in, Fujian, was a and former dean of the College of Fine Arts. Her mother, Julia Chang Lin, born in Shanghai, is a poet and taught literature at Ohio University. She is the niece of, who is an American-educated artist, poet and said to be the first female architect in modern China. and Lin Yin Ming, both of whom are among the 72 martyrs of the, were cousins of her grandfather. Lin Chang-min, a of Qing dynasty and the emperor's teacher, was the father of Lin Hui-yin and great-grandfather of Maya Lin.

Lin has an older brother, the poet. Growing up, she did not have many friends and stayed home a lot. She loved school and loved to study. When she was not studying, she took independent courses from and spent her free time casting bronzes in the school foundry. Lin, having grown up as an Asian minority, has said that she "didn't even realize" she was until later in life. It was not until her 30s that she had a desire to understand her cultural background.

Lin graduated from, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1981 and a degree in 1986.

Environmental concerns[]

Lin has stated that environmental issues have concerned her since she was very young, and she dedicated much of her time at Yale University to environmental activism. Much of her later work, after her work on memorials, focuses on the relationship that people have with their environment, which she displays in earthworks, sculptures, and installations. "I'm very much a product of the growing awareness about ecology and the environment al movement," Lin says. "I am very drawn to landscape, and my work is about finding a balance in the landscape, respecting nature not trying to dominate it. Even the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is an earthwork. All of my work is about slipping things in, inserting an order or a structuring, yet making an interface so that in the end, rather than a hierarchy, there is a balance and tension between the man-made and the natural." Lin's work centers on the concept of uncovering "hidden histories" to bring attention to landscapes and environments that may otherwise be inaccessible to viewers and "deploys the concept to discuss the inextricable relationship between nature and the built environment." Lin's focus on this relationship highlights the impact humanity has on the environment, and draws attention to her concerns such as global warming, endangered bodies of water, and animal extinction/endangerment. These issues are explored in what Lin calls her latest memorial, What Is Missing?.

Lin also sits on the board of trustees. She constructs her works to have a minimal effect on the environment, utilizing recycled and sustainable materials, minimizes carbon emissions, and avoids damage to the landscapes/ecosystems she works upon.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial[]

Vietnam War Memorial original design submission by Maya Lin

In 1981, at 21 and still an undergraduate, Lin won a public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, beating 1,421 other competition submissions. The black cut-stone masonry wall, with the names of 57,661 fallen soldiers carved into its face, was completed in late October 1982 and dedicated in November 1982. The wall is granite and V-shaped, with one side pointing to the and the other to the.

Lin's conception was to create an opening or a wound in the earth to symbolize the gravity of the loss of the soldiers. The design was initially very controversial for several reasons. It was an unconventional and non-traditional design for a war memorial. Also controversial were Lin's Asian ethnicity, and her lack of professional experience. The memorial has since become an important pilgrimage site for relatives and friends of the American military casualties in Vietnam, and personal tokens and mementos are left at the wall daily in the casualties' memory. In 2007, the ranked the memorial No. 10 on their list of.

Lin believes that if the competition had not been "blind," with designs submitted by name instead of number, she "never would have won." She received harassment after her ethnicity was revealed. Prominent businessman and later third party presidential candidate called her an "egg roll" after it was revealed that she was Asian. Lin defended her design in front of the, and eventually, a compromise was reached., a bronze statue of a group of soldiers and an, was placed off to one side of her design.

However, the artist's architectural design was controversial due to particular aspects, such as the exclusion of the surviving veterans' names as well as the dark complexion of the granite. Many argue that the memorial only honors the soldiers who lost their lives during the, and others believe that the color of the granite resembles disgust and sadness towards this specific war. Yet, a 50-foot-high flagpole and an 8-foot-high statue of three soldiers were added to the to appease any external pressures.

Later work[]

Sculpture made of multiple wood 2x4 pieces, on display at the in San Francisco (2009) Maya Lin's "Women's Table" in front of the that commemorates the role of women at Yale University

Maya Lin calls herself a "designer," rather than an "architect." Her vision and her focus are always on how space needs to be in the future, the balance and relationship with the nature and what it means to people. She has tried to focus less on how politics influences design and more on what emotions the space would create and what it would symbolize to the user. Her belief in a space being connected and the transition from inside to outside being fluid, coupled with what a space means, has led her to create some very memorable designs. She has also worked on sculptures and landscape installations. In doing so, Lin focuses on memorializing concepts of time periods instead of direct representations of figures, creating an abstract sculptures and installations.[]

Lin believes that art should be an act of every individual that is willing to say something that is new and not quite familiar. Lin describes her creative process as having a very important writing and verbal component. She first imagines an artwork verbally to understand its concepts and meanings. She believes that gathering ideas and information is especially vital in architecture, which focuses on humanity and life and requires a well-rounded mind. When a project comes her way, she tries to "understand the definition (of the site) in a verbal before finding the form to understand what a piece is conceptually and what its nature should be even before visiting the site." In her historical memorials, such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Women’s Table, and the, Lin tries to focus on the chronological aspect of what she is memorializing. That theme is shown in her art memorializing the changing environment and in charting the depletion of bodies of water. Lin also explores themes of juxtaposing materials and a fusion of opposites: "I feel I exist on the boundaries. Somewhere between science and art, art and architecture, public and private, east and west.... I am always trying to find a balance between these opposing forces, finding the place where opposites meet... existing not on either side but on the line that divides."

Lin, who now owns and operates Maya Lin Studio in New York City, has designed numerous projects, including the Civil Rights Memorial in (1989) and the Wave Field outdoor installation at the (1995).

In 1995, Lin completed Wave Field, at the University of Michigan. Lin was inspired by both diagrams of fluids in motion and photographs of ocean waves. She was intrigued by the idea of capturing and freezing the motion of water, and she wished to capture that movement in the earth, rather than through photography. That was her first experience with earthworks.

In 1999, Lin exhibited Il Cortile Mare (1998) of furniture design, maquettes and photos of works at the American Academy in Rome.

In 2000, Lin re-emerged in the public life with a book, Boundaries. Also in 2000, she agreed to act as the artist and architect for the, a series of outdoor installations at historical points along the and in the states of and. It is the largest and longest project that she has undertaken so far.

In 2004, Lin completed an earthwork, Eleven Minute Line, in that was designed for the Wanås Foundation. Lin draws inspiration from the (Native American burial mounds) located in her home state, Ohio. It is meant to be a walkway for the viewers to experience, taking eleven minutes to complete. The earthwork is also inspired by 's.

In 2005, she designed the new that anchors the at the.

In 2006, Lin completed Waterline, which is composed of aluminum tubing and paint. She describes the piece as a drawing instead of a sculpture. It is a to-scale representation of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, and it is installed so that viewers may walk under the underwater mountain range. There is a purposeful ambiguity to where the actual water line is in relation to the mountain range, to highlight viewers' relationship to the environment and their effect on bodies of water.

Also in 2006, Lin completed her Bodies of Water series, which included representations of three bodies of water, "The Black Sea," "The Caspian Sea," and "The Red Sea." Each sculpture is made of layers of birch plywood, and are to-scale representations of three endangered bodies of water. The sculptures are balanced on the deepest point of the sea. Lin wishes to call attention to the "unseen ecosystems" that people continue to pollute.

Lin was commissioned by to design what is known as Input in that institution's Bicentennial Park, a landscape designed to resemble a computer. The work relates to Lin's first official connection with the university. The daughter of the late Professor Emerita of English Julia Lin and the late Henry Lin, dean emeritus of the College of Fine Arts, Maya Lin studied computer programming at the university while in high school. The installation is located in a 3.5-acre park. It has 21 rectangles, some raised and some depressed, resembling computer punch cards, a mainstay of early programming courses.

In 2007, Lin installed, an outdoor sculpture at the in. The artwork is made of aluminum tubing that has been electrolytically colored during a process called.

In 2008, Lin completed a 30-ton sculpture called 2 × 4 Landscape, made of many pieces of wood, which was exhibited at the, in San Francisco. The sculpture itself is evocative of the swelling movement of water, which is juxtaposed with the dry materiality of the lumber pieces. According to Lin, 2 × 4 Landscape was her attempt to bring the experience of Wavefield (1995) indoors. The 2 × 4 pieces are also meant to be reminiscent of pixels, to evoke the "virtual or digital space that we are increasingly occupying."

In 2008, her projects included an installation, called Wave Field, at the in Upstate New York, near the. It is the center's first earthwork, spanning 4 acres of land, and is a larger version of her original Wave Field (1995) that focuses on the "fusion of opposites," comparing the motion of water to the material of the earth.

In 2009 Lin created the design of a building for the near New York City's, Lin attached a personal significance to the project being a Chinese-related project, explaining that she wants her two daughters to "know that part of their heritage".

That same year, Lin completed Silver River, her first work of art in the. It is part of a public fine art collection at 's, which opened December 2009. Lin created an 84-foot (26 m) cast of the made entirely of reclaimed silver. With the sculpture, Lin wanted to make a statement about water conservation and the importance of the to in terms of energy and water. The sculpture is displayed behind the front desk of the.

In 2013, Lin completed her largest work to date, A Fold in the Field. It was built from 105,000m cubic meters of earth, covering 3 hectares. It forms part of a private collection within a sculpture park, owned by, north of, New Zealand.

Since around 2010, Lin has been working on what she calls "her final memorial," the What Is Missing? Foundation, to commemorate the biodiversity that has been lost in the planet's sixth mass extinction. She aims to raise awareness about the loss of biodiversity and natural habitats by using sound, media, science, and art for temporary installations and a web-based project. What Is Missing? exists not in one specific site but in many forms and in many places simultaneously.

Both What is Missing and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial were referred to by the White House in its press release that announced Lin as one of the 2016 recipients of the. Nature and the environment have been central concerns for Lin in both her art and architecture: "As an artist I often work in series, and so for me, I wanted my last memorial to be on a subject that I have personally been concerned with and connected to since I was a child. The last memorial is "What Is Missing?" And encompasses multiple platforms, with temporary and permanent physical installations as well as an interactive online component." She has expressed her concerns for the goals of the : "I think nature is resilient— if we protect it—and with my background I wanted to lend a voice to the incredible threat we are under from and species and."

Lin is represented by the in New York City.

Personal life[]

Lin is married to Daniel Wolf, a New York photography dealer. They have two daughters, India and Rachel. She also has an older brother, who is a poet.


Lin has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Yale University,,, and. In 1987 she was among the youngest to be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by Yale University.

In 1994, she was the subject of the -winning documentary. Its title comes from an address she gave at in which she spoke of the monument design process in the origin of her work; "My work originates from a simple desire to make people aware of their surroundings and this can include not just the physical but the psychological world that we live in."

In 2002, Lin was elected Alumni Fellow of the, the governing body of (upon whose campus sits another of Lin's designs, the Women's Table, designed to commemorate the role of women at Yale University), in an unusually public contest. Her opponent was W. David Lee, a local New Haven minister and graduate of the, who was running on a platform to build ties to the community with the support of Yale's unionized employees. Lin was supported by Yale President and other members of the Yale Corporation, and she was the officially endorsed candidate of the Association of Yale Alumni.

In 2003, Lin was chosen to serve on the selection jury of the. A trend toward and was noted among the entrants and the finalists as well as in the chosen design for the.

In 2005, Lin was elected to, as well as the in,.

In 2009, Lin was awarded the by President.

Awards and honors[]

This list is ; you can help by.

Selected works[]

  • (VVM) (1980–82), Washington, D.C.
  • Aligning Reeds (1985), New Haven, Connecticut
  • (1988–89), Montgomery, Alabama
  • Open-Air Peace Chapel (1988–89), Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
  • Topo (1989–91), Charlotte Sports Coliseum, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Eclipsed Time (1989–95), Pennsylvania Station, New York City
  • Women's Table (1990–93), Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • (1991–93), Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Groundswell (1992–93), Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio
  • (1992–93), New York City.
  • Wave Field (1993–95), FXB Aerospace Engineering Building, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • 10 Degrees North (1993–96), Rockefeller Foundation Headquarters, New York City
  • A Shift in the Stream (1995–97), Principal Financial Group Headquarters, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Reading a Garden (1996–98), Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Private Duplex Apartment, New York City (1996–98), New York
  • Topographic Landscape (1997) (Portable sculpture)
  • Phases of the Moon (1998) (Portable sculpture)
  • Avalanche (1998) (Portable sculpture)
  • (1999), Clinton, Tennessee
  • Timetable (2000), Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • The character of a hill, under glass (2000–01), American Express Client Services Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Ecliptic (2001), Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Input (2004), Bicentennial Park, Athens, Ohio
  • Riggio-Lynch Chapel (2004), Clinton, Tennessee
  • Arts Plaza, (2005), Irvine, California
  • : Cape Disappointment State Park (2006)
  • Confluence Project: Vancouver Land Bridge (2008)
  • Confluence Project: Sandy River Delta (2008)
  • : Sacajawea State Park (2010)
  • Ellen S. Clark Hope Plaza, Washington University in St. Louis (2010)
  • : Chief Timothy Park (2011)
  • A Fold in the Field (2013), The Gibbs Farm, Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand
  • "What is Missing? (2009–present), (Various locations, web project)
  • Under the Laurentide, (2015)
  • Folding the Chesapeake (part of Wonder exhibit): Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC (2015)


  • Maya Lin: Topologies (Artist and the community) (1998)  
  • Maya Lin: [American Academy in Rome, 10 dicembre 1998-21 febbraio 1999] (1998)  
  • Timetable: Maya Lin (2000) ASIN B000PT331Y (2002,  )
  • Boundaries (2000)   (2006,  )
  • Landscape Architecture (2/2007) Page 110-115, by Susan Hines


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