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Friday, October 2, 2009

case study- memorial, Vietnam Veteran Memorial

Case study type: Memorial

Study no: 01
Also related to type: Museum, monument

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

Compiled texts from internet

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.)


"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

From : Wikipedia

In 1981, at age 21 and while still an undergraduate, Lin won a public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, beating out 1,420 other competition submissions.[6] The black cut-stone masonry wall, with the names of 58,253 fallen soldiers carved into its face,[7] was completed in late October 1982 and dedicated on November 13, 1982.[8] The wall is granite and V-shaped, with one side pointing to the Lincoln Memorial and the other to the Washington Monument.[7]

Lin's conception was to create an opening or a wound in the earth to symbolize the gravity of the loss of the soldiers. The design was initially controversial for what was an unconventional and non-traditional design for a war memorial. Opponents of the design also voiced objection because of Lin's Asian heritage.[5][9][10] However, the memorial has since become an important pilgrimage site for relatives and friends of the American military casualties in Vietnam, and personal tokens and mementos are left at the wall daily in their memory.[11][12]

Lin believes that if the competition had not been "blind", with designs submitted by number instead of name, she "never would have won." She received harassment after her ethnicity was revealed - prominent businessman and later 3rd party presidential candidate Ross Perot was known to have called her an "egg roll" after it was revealed that she was Asian.[13] Lin defended her design in front of the United States Congress, and eventually a compromise was reached. A bronze statue of a group of soldiers and an American flag was placed off to one side of the monument as a result.

From : Mayalin .com

Two black granite walls, placed below grade, engraved in chronological order with the names of the men and women who gave their lives in the Vietnam War. At the apex where the two walls meet, the dates 1959 and 1973 (marking the beginning and end of the war) "meet" thus closing the circle of the time span of the war. A returning veteran can find his or her own time upon the wall, making each one's experience of the memorial very personal and individual. The siting of the piece is directly related to the presence of both the Lincoln Monument and Washington Memorial, tying it physically and historically to the site.

From: http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/lin/card1.html

Lin is perhaps most well known for her first public commission, the "Vietnam Veterans Memorial." Conceived of when she was still an undergraduate at Yale University, the memorial is remarkable in that it proposes neither winners nor losers, but only the names of the dead inscribed in a polished, black granite. A corner submerged into the earth, the work is welcoming in its open-ended, book-like form, and yet disconcerting to those who realize that to read the names is to stand below the horizon - six feet under - conversing in the space of the dead. The work is outspoken and angry in the way in which it functions as a visual scar on the American landscape, cutting aggressively into the Washington Mall, and yet is dignified for the way in which it carves out a space for a public display of grief and pain. These emotions, necessary to the healing process, have a place in Lin's work and are as natural as the cycles of the earth. Attentive to the individual life of every man and woman who died in the war, the memorial is also responsive to the individual experience of the visitor. There is no wrong way to approach the "Vietnam Veterans Memorial" as it makes no grand statements about politics or American ideals. Its sole proposition is that the cost of war is human life. Spread out horizontally (in contrast to the verticality of the Washington Monument to the east and the Lincoln memorial to the west), every inch and every name of the memorial is within grasp. The two 247-foot walls of the monument expand laterally, hugging close to the earth, depending on the landscape for support as much as they mark it as a site for human suffering and reconciliation.

The memorials designed by Maya Lin are tactile experiences of sight, sound, and touch. They activate a full-bodied response on the part of the viewer, connecting us with the material aspects of their construction as well as with the private memories and thoughts that transform past events into awakenings in the present. It would be stating the obvious to say that each memorial is made from stone - the traditional stuff of monuments - and yet unlike familiar structures such as Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument, Lin's use of stone is supple, understated, and earthy. In two of her projects, the "Civil Rights Memorial" (1987-89) in Montgomery, Alabama, and "The Women's Table" (1990-93) in New Haven, Connecticut, water rises up out of the stone and floats along the surface of the rock. Inviting to the touch, the water in these works leaves a physical trace on those who venture to feel the names and numbers inscribed on stone tables. Lin's use of water also predicts the demise of the memorial itself, as centuries of running water will eventually soften the stone, turning it back into earth. While tied to a particular event or group of people, each of Lin's memorials engage broader ideas about the artistic process, geology, history, and spirituality. Whether echoing the balance of forces common to Chinese philosophy (yin and yang, water and stone), or a more Western conception of mortality (from ashes to ashes, dust to dust), Lin's memorials connect human activities and self-perceptions to cycles inscribed in the landscape.

From : http://www.vvmf.org/index.cfm?sectionID=539

Facts and Figures

Key Dates

In 1977, while a student at American University, Jan C. Scruggs, a Vietnam War veteran from Bowie, Md. wrote an editorial for The Washington Post in which he called for a national monument to make amends for the indifference Vietnam veterans had been met with upon returning to the country. Together with other veterans, Scruggs started the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) in 1979.

On Memorial Day 1979, Scruggs began to raise funds for the building of a memorial for Vietnam veterans. He started by contributing $2,800 of his own money. Soon, as the drive became public, the pace of contributions picked up. Celebrity spokespeople, including Bob Hope, signed on to help raise funds. Altogether, $8.4 million was raised from individuals and corporate entities.

In 1980, Sens. Charles Mathias (R-Md.) and John Warner (R-Va.) co-sponsored legislation to provide federal land on the National Mall for the memorial. On July 1, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the legislation that called for the memorial to be built between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

A public competition was held for the memorial design, ultimately drawing 1,421 entries. After an initial round of judging, on May 6, 1981, Maya Lin’s design was chosen unanimously. Lin, 21 at the time, was an undergraduate architecture student at Yale University.

When the winning design was unveiled, it met with resistance from some veterans groups and other detractors. The design was so contentious that the memorial project was nearly derailed. Objections were overcome when a compromise was reached thanks to a recommendation by Gen. Michael Davison, USA (Ret.), who proposed adding a statue to the memorial site.

On March 26, 1982, less than three years after the project was launched and VVMF was incorporated, the groundbreaking for the Memorial took place. The first panel of The Wall, as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is called today, was unveiled July 22, 1982.

VVMF commissioned sculptor Frederick E. Hart to create a heroic statue representing three foot soldiers. The statue, titled Three Servicemen, was installed near The Wall’s western ramp and was dedicated in 1984. A flagpole with the insignias of the five service branches at its base also was added nearby.

On Veterans Day 1984, President Ronald Reagan accepted the Memorial as a gift to the United States from VVMF. At that time, the Memorial was turned over to the National Park Service (NPS).
Nearly 10 years later, on Veterans Day 1993, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial was dedicated to honor all the women who had served in Vietnam. This statue, designed by sculptor Glenna Goodacre, depicts three military nurses and a wounded serviceman.

In 2000, Congress authorized the placement of a plaque to honor Vietnam’s post-war casualties not eligible for inclusion on The Wall under Department of Defense (DoD) parameters. The “In Memory Plaque” was dedicated November 10, 2004.

The Wall: Facts and Figures

The walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are made of black granite, quarried near Bangalore, India. All cutting and fabrication took place in Barre, Vt. On the Memorial’s walls, listed chronologically by date of casualty (not always the date of death), 58,253 names are inscribed. Each name was inscribed using a stencil generated from the computer tape of the official DoD Vietnam casualty list. The names are 0.53 inches high and are typeset in Optima font.

Of the 58,253 names on The Wall, eight are women and 16 are members of the clergy. Names are added to the Memorial each year in May just prior to Memorial Day. DoD has strict parameters for inclusion of a name on The Wall.

The Wall is built in the shape of a chevron. Both the east and west portions measure 246 feet and 8 inches, and meet at an angle of 125.12 degrees. Each corner of the Memorial points exactly to the northeast corners of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Today, The Wall is the most visited memorial on the National Mall, with more than 4.4 million visitors annually. Visitors often leave remembrances at the Wall. These items – medals, photographs, helmets, jewelry -- are collected by the NPS and stored in a facility in suburban Maryland. Remembrances left at the Memorial now number more than 100,000.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s reach is felt throughout the United States through several replicas (The Wall’s design is not copyrighted) that annually visit many cities and towns. VVMF’s traveling memorial, The Wall that Heals, encompasses a half-sized replica of The Wall and a comprehensive, educational museum.

Additionally, several Web sites provide opportunities for families and friends to honor their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War. The Virtual Wall, a site created by VVMF, is located at www.vvmf.org. The site features tens of thousands of remembrances, both text and photographs, of those honored on The Wall in Washington, D.C.


the following images (from top)
aerial view (on the top of the post)

original maya lin submission sheet
views in different times 1,2
sketch from Maya Lin submission 1,2,3
close up with names
birds eye view and names
another view

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