MAYA LIN

Maya Lin.jpeg

by Tim Sullivan
Today’s fierce female is Maya Lin.

Born in Ohio to Chinese immigrants, Maya stunned the architect world as an undergraduate at Yale when she won the contest to design the Vietnam Memorial in Washington out of more than 1,400 entries, all made anonymously. The project had only earned her a B when she submitted it to her professor.

The decision was incredibly controversial because of the unique and modern design, but particularly because of her gender and Asianheritage. After pledging significant funding to the memorial, Ross Perot withdrew his support, referring to Maya as an “egg roll.” A compromise was reached to add a more traditional statue of three soldiers and an American flag nearby, but it is Maya’s somber and dramatic creation of a dark V with the names of the 58,318 soldiers who died or are MIA that has withstood the test of time - the Vietnam Memorial is now considered one of the most moving monuments in the world.

After graduating with both a B.A. and Master’s in architecture from Yale, Maya opened her own studio and went on to design dozens of major works across the globe, including the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, the Women’s Table celebrating 20 years of co-education at her alma mater Yale, the Wave Field at the University of Michigan, the Museum of Chinese in America in New York City, Silver River at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, and A Fold in the Field, a 3-hectare sculpture outside of Auckland, New Zealand.

In what she has stated will be her final memorial, Maya created What Is Missing? beginning in 2010. It is an interactive, ongoing, online memorial to the biodiversity lost as a result of climate change. She was among Barack Obama’s final recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

“I though about what death is, what a loss is. A sharp pain that lessens with time, but can never quite heal over. A scar. The idea occurred to me there on the site. Take a knife and cut open the earth, and with time the grass would heal it.”

“We were unusually brought up; there was no gender differentiation. I was never thought of as any less than my brother.”

“If we can't face death, we'll never overcome it. You have to look it straight in the eye. Then you can turn around and walk back out into the light.”

“To me, the American Dream is being able to follow your own personal calling. To be able to do what you want to do is incredible freedom.”

“To fly, we have to have resistance.”


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