Fascinating profile of the designer of the Vietnam Memorial by Louis Menand in The New Yorker (July 2002). Ms. Lin received a B+ for the project, which was an undergraduate assignment at Yale.
These responses all miss the brilliance of what Lin did. The Vietnam Memorial is a piece about death for a culture in which people are constantly being told that life is the only thing that matters. It doesn’t say that death is noble, which is what supporters of the war might like it to say, and it doesn’t say that death is absurd, which is what critics of the war might like it to say. It only says that death is real, and that in a war, no matter what else it is about, people die. Lin has always said that she kept quiet about her politics while her work was being built, and she has kept quiet since. Maintaining that the memorial is apolitical is the civic thing to do: reconciliation is what we want memorials to promote. But the conservatives were not mistaken. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the great anti-war statements of all time.
This is a long but eminently rewarding article.