Maya Lin is a designer and architect best known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when she was 21 years old. Her parents were Chinese refugees who came to Ohio in 1949.
Lin attended Yale and studied architecture. When she was a senior, she designed the memorial as a class project, then submitted it to the official design competition.
Her design was selected over 1,420 other entrants. Today, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most visited monuments in Washington. At the time, the reflective, V-shaped wall was highly unconventional. Public officials described it as a “black gash of shame” and “a nihilistic slab of stone.” Maya Lin also faced harassment when it was revealed she was Asian American. The design selection committee was blind; it only considered the designs, and did not see the names or other details of the designer. Lin believes that if blind selection was not used, and if the committee saw her name, her design would not have been selected.
Time has vindicated Lin’s design. She has since designed many other sculptures and memorials, including the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Lin is passionate about the environment. She serves on the board of trustees of the Natural Resources Defence Council, and her designs commonly reflect the landscape of nature.