Maya Ying Lin

Vietnamese Veterans Memorial, The Mall

Monuments are curious hybrids of art and architecture, public and private space, singular vision and official style. They are not really about themselves as objects in the Modernist tradition, but are often shrouded in monumentality as they codify social rhetoric and mystify the history they pretend to report. To its lasting credit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, designed by Maya Ying Lin, is a reserved, site-specific object that allows the sad narrative of Vietnam—as echoed in the names of the dead—to tell itself.

A slight fissure in a gentle green knoll, the memorial is a place of refuge for an orphaned history. Cut into the site like a giant V, the memorial is composed of two black, polished granite walls which seem both to rise from and recede into the earth. Chronologically inscribed in the granite are the names of 57, 939 dead and missing, beginning, in the vertex of the V, with the

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