Maya Ying Lin (born October 5, 1959) is an American designer and artist who is known for her work in sculpture and landscape art. She is best known as the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Maya Lin’s parents immigrated to the United States from China in 1949 and settled in Ohio in 1958, one year before Maya Lin was born. Her father, Henry Huan Lin, was a ceramist and former dean of the Ohio University College of Fine Arts. She is the niece of Lin Huiyin, who is said to be the first female architect in China. Lin Juemin, one of the 72 martyrs of the Second Guangzhou Uprising was a cousin of her grandfather.
Lin studied at Yale University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1981 and a Master of Architecture degree in 1986. She has also been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Yale University, Harvard University, Williams College, and Smith College. She was among the youngest at Yale University to receive an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts in 1987.
In 1981, at age 21 and while still an undergraduate, Lin won a public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, beating 1,441 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 on November 13, 1982. The wall is granite and V-shaped, with one side pointing to the Lincoln Memorial and the other to the Washington Monument.
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 controversial for what was an unconventional and non-traditional design for a war memorial. Opponents of the design also voiced objection because of Lin’s Asian heritage. However, 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 their memory. In 2007, the American Institute of Architects ranked the memorial #10 on their list of America’s Favorite Architecture.