Maya Lin is an environmental designer and artist whose body of work includes large-scale, site-specific installations, intimate studio artworks, architectural works and memorials.
She is best known for her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., known as "The Wall," which grew out of a class project during her senior year at Yale University. In 1981, her design was selected from a field of 1,421 submissions in a blind competition that was open to all Americans, not just professional architects. Lin was just 21 at the time.
"Maya Lin reshaped our nation's understanding of the meaning of war, the expression of grief, and the important role physical design can play in collective healing," Kim Tanzer, dean of the School of Architecture, said. "Before Ms. Lin, war memorials were objects to be observed; after, they have become places to inhabit and reflect. The lines between buildings, landscapes and art installations have blurred, in part because of the power of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
"In the decades following this extraordinary first design, Ms. Lin has built a career based on righteous projects, beautifully executed. Her body of work has been an inspiration to many designers, myself included."
Lin's other well-known memorials include the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., and the Women's Table at Yale. She is currently working on what she says will be her last memorial, titled "What is Missing?", which will focus on bringing awareness to the current crisis surrounding biodiversity and habitat loss.
Her architectural works have included institutional and private commissions, from the Langston Hughes Library and chapel for the Children's Defense Fund in Clinton, Tenn., to the Sculpture Center's space in Long Island City, N.Y., to the design for the Museum of Chinese in America in Manhattan's Chinatown, which opened in the spring of 2009.
Lin, 51, was born in Athens, Ohio, to parents who had come from the People's Republic of China the year before. She received her master of architecture from Yale in 1986, and has maintained a professional studio in New York City since then. She serves on the board of trustees of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
She is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the Presidential Design Award and National Endowment for the Arts artist award. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2005 was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.