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The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

Washington DC Memorial for Veterans of the War in Vietnam

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Maya Ying Lin was a young architecture student at Yale when her design was chosen for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC, designed by architect Maya Lin

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC, designed by architect Maya Lin.

Photo by Fang Guo via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0
When she was still only a student, Maya Lin entered a public competition to design a memorial for Vietnam veterans. The V-shaped memorial wall that Maya Lin designed was selected out of 1,421 entries. Her initial submission was evocative but abstract, so contest officials asked architect and artist Paul Stevenson Oles to prepare some additional sketches.

Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial is made of polished black granite. The 250-foot long walls are ten feet tall at their apex and gradually slope down to ground level. Viewers see their own reflections in the stone as they read the 58,000 names inscribed there.

Critics of Lin's memorial wanted a more traditional approach. To reach a compromise and move the project forward, a bronze Vietnam Veterans Statue was placed nearby. This more traditional statue depicts three servicemen and a flag.

In the Words of Maya Ying Lin, Architect

"Walking through this park-like area, the memorial appears as a rift in the earth - a long, polished black stone wall, emerging from and receding into the earth. Approaching the memorial, the ground slopes gently downward, and the low walls emerging on either side, growing out of the earth, extend and converge at a point below and ahead. Walking into the grassy site contained by the walls of this memorial, we can barely make out the carved names upon the memorial's walls. These names, seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole..." - From Lin's competition entry, 1981

Learn More About the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC:

Books About the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC:

Boundaries, by Maya Ying Lin
The architect describes her creative process and discusses what happened after her controversial design was chosen for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
(Compare Prices)

The Wall, by Eve Bunting
Children's author Eve Bunting describes a poignant visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
(Read Review)

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