31 May 2004


For Memorial Day, a quote from our master memorialist, Maya Lin, who gave us the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington DC from an interview with her in The New Yorker.

Lin has a simple view of what the disputes boiled down to: she was the only one who understood that the design would work. She expresses no surprise that the memorial has been almost universally accepted as success, even by some of its most obnoxious early critics. She always knew that she was right. When the wall was being constructed, the fund's project director, Robert Doubek, asked her what she thought people would do when they first saw it. “I think he wanted me to say, ‘They're gonna love it,” ’ Lin told the Times, when she recounted the story. “And I said something like ‘Well, I think they're going to be really moved by it.’ What I didn't tell him is that they are probably going to cry and cry and cry.”

The assumption in the article is that a memorial that “works” is one that hurts. Not everyone shares that assumption. But the article is correct: we should feel at least a brush with the pain of loss as we memorialize our fallen soldiers.

Update: Maya Lin in The New York Review of Books: Making The Memorial.

These were all the thoughts that were in my mind before I went to see the site.

Without having seen it, I couldn’t design the memorial, so a few of us traveled to Washington, D.C., and it was at the site that the idea for the design took shape. The site was a beautiful park surrounded by trees, with traffic and noise coming from one side—Constitution Avenue.

I had a simple impulse to cut into the earth.

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