Vietnam Veterans Memorial
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Architect Maya Lin
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Location Washington, D.C.,   map
Date 1982   timeline
Building Type war memorial, monument
 Construction System cut stone masonry
Climate temperate
Context urban park
Style Modern
Notes Powerfully evocative minimalist monument
Images

 


Photo, overview

Photo, close-up of the wall
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Discussion Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commentary

"As you descend the path along the wall and reach this angle, you realize that one wing of the black wall points straight at the tall, white Washington Monument a mile or so off, and the other at the Lincoln Memorial, visible through a screen of trees about 600 feet away. In making this descent you feel you're entering a cloistered space, set off from the busy surroundings. Streets and skylines disappear to leave you alone with the wall and its names. Then, as you pass the angle and begin to climb, you feel yourself emerging again into the world of noise and light after a meditative experience.

"At close range, the names dominate everything. . . . The name of the first soldier who died is carved at the angle in the wall, and the names continue to the right in columns in chronological order of date of death, out to the east end where the wall fades into the earth. The names begin again, with the next soldier who died, at the west end, where the wall emerges from the earth...."

Robert Campbell, "An Emotive Place Apart," A.I.A. Journal, May 1983, pp. 150-1

The Creator's Words

" . . . this memorial is for those who have died, and for us to remember.

"It was while I was at the site that I designed it. I just sort of visualized it. It just popped into my head. Some people were playing Frisbee. It was a beautiful park. I didn't want to destroy a living park. You use the landscape. You don't fight with it. You absorb the landscape . . . When I looked at the site I just knew I wanted something horizontal that took you in, that made you feel safe within the park, yet at the same time reminding you of the dead. So I just imagined opening up the earth. . . ."

Maya Lin in an interview with Washington Post writer Phil McCombs in Brent Ashabranner and Photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner. Always to Remember, the Story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, p. 42.

"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. As if you cut open the rock and polished it."

"Andy (Maya Lin's Yale critic) said, you have to make the angle mean something. And I wanted the names in chronological order because to hone the living as well as the dead it had to be a sequence in time."

Maya Lin, quoted in Robert Campbell, "An Emotive Place Apart," A.I.A. Journal, May 1983, p. 151.

Details

"Each half of the wall is 246.75 feet long, combined length of 493.50 feet. Each segment is made of 70 panels. At their intersection, the highest point, they are 10.1 feet high; they taper to a width of 8 inches at their extremities. Granite for the wall came from southern India.

"The wall contains 58,175 names (as of October 1990). The largest panels have 137 lines of names; the smallest panels have but one line. There are five names on each line. The names (and other words) on the wall are 0.53 inches high and 0.015 inches deep."

Brent Ashabranner and Photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner. Always to Remember, the Story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial., p. 93.

Resources
Sources on Vietnam Veterans Memorial

"AIA Honors Leers Weinzapfel and Vietnam Memorial", by ArchitectureWeek, ArchitectureWeek No. 319, 2007.0124, pN1-1.

Akiko Busch. The Photography of Architecture, Twelve Views. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989. ISBN 0-442-21109-0. LC 86-5627. TR659.B87 1986. exterior photo with Washington Monument in background, p67.

Ernest and Kathleen Meredith, Fairfax, Virginia. Slide from photographers' collection.

Sylvia Hart Wright. Sourcebook of Contemporary North American Architecture, From Postwar to Postmodern. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989. ISBN 0-442-29190-6. LC 89-5320. NA703.W75 1989. exterior photo from above, f122, p73.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at Amazon.com

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