Nice Maya Lin Takedown, But More Are Needed

Philip Kennicott took the occasion of a blown off question about memorials at a public lecture for an excellent takedown of Maya Lin.

She's been intimately involved in memorials for the two most politically divisive and controversial wars in 140 years, and yet she uses art and architecture as an apolitical scrim to hide behind when it suits her.

[Kennicott doesn't address much of what I believe is Lin's underexamined culpability for the design failures of the WTC site memorial. It's a affirmative role defined by her presence and performance on the WTC Memorial Jury, and it's separate from the stifling Minimalist hegemony her Vietnam Memorial design has had on the field for 25 years. Which isn't her fault, anyway, and which is due to memorial designs since VNM being unable to equal its success.]

I can't begin to imagine what it's like trying to create art constantly under the critical shadow of a project you did as an undergrad, and Lin has and continues to be an inspiration to me. But I do know that it's dishonest and delusional to try to maintain a public role that's derived from an early, wildly important achievement, only to then claim you're just a mere designer of garden ornaments. You can't have it both ways, and the sooner Lin can reconcile those things within herself and her work, the better off we'll all be. Either because the public sphere won't be inflicted with her arrogance, or because she'll once again be making an honest and tremendous contribution to our culture.

Why Has Maya Lin Retreated From the Battlefield of Ideas? [wapo via archinect]
Previous Maya Lin posts on

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

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