This essay written by Maya Lin during the time the Vietnam Memorial was being completed, described the process by which she came up with the final design. It started when she was designing a memorial for a third world war in her funeral architecture class at Yale. In this class she began to learn about the ways in which people respond to death through form that is built. Through research on memorials, she saw a trend that many of the memorials, except for WW1 honored a leader’s victory and paid little attention to the lives that were lost.
She noticed that the monuments that did include the names of those who died, seemed to have a presence of honesty about the horrors of war. These designs also seemed to honor the lives that have been given up for sacrifice.
What I found most interesting in this essay was that although Maya Lin did extensive research on the theory of design in memorials, she made a deliberate decision to not look into the politics of the Vietnam War. She found that the details and politics behind the conflict take away from the veterans as individuals who lost their lives. This memorial was for them and not for a political statement.
She also discussed the power of a name and what role it plays in remembering a life of someone. The way that the names are engraved give visitors something tangible to feel as they process, mourn, and remember that life. The reflectivity of the smooth marble wall gives another tangible element of the visitor’s inclusion in the story and the lives of the lost.