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Book: Maya Lin Boundaries

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A few scattered thoughts, with quotes and a smattering of images in the extended entry to go along with Lin's sculptures/memorials.

Technical vs. emotional issues

This quote pretty much captures how I currently feel about engineering:

p. 3:11

There are always technical problems to be worked out -- getting the water in the Civil Rights Memorial to flow upside down or designing the click mechanism for Eclipsed Time -- but these problems did not pose a real difficulty for me (though my technical consultants might disagree). The challenge, for me, is not technical, but emotional: the attempt to capture the essence of the idea that is so much a part of the original model.

Typeface choice for the Women's Table

The sculpture uses Bembo to mimic the Yale course description book. It also happens to be the same typeface as Envisioning Information, which means that when Tufte is teaching his courses at Yale, his design evokes the process of choosing one's courses. I am reminded of Paul Dourish's Where the Action Is, which shares the same cover design as our MIT Medical pamphlets. My impression, as a former student, is that one must be careful in evoking administrative material in your design.

Art by blueprint

p. 4:44

But is sometimes easy to lose sight of the underlying idea in the making of architecture; it is easy to lose the soul of the work as one focuses on all the smaller aesthetic decisions. Or if one is too strong or relentless in the expression of the underlying idea, that idea can overwhelm the day-to-day functioning of the place; it can force the dweller into a space that is too singular in purpose. The process of making architecture is labored and detail-oriented. The actual process must be thought through thoroughly in advance -- it is a premeditated process, making it difficult to be spontaneous and intuitive. Imagine making a blueprint of a painting and then following it exactly through to its completion. How would it differ from painting the canvas with the guidance of an underlying sketch, yet inventing or seeing it for the first time on the canvas? Architecture requires a close adherence to the drawings and plans you have produced in order to construct the building; changes and alterations must occur during the earlier stanges of design -- in the drawings and models. Although there is room for some maninpulations and alterations ot the design during construction, this is not the time to be changing your mind.

Vietnam Memorial

p. 4:08

My design for a World War III memorial was a tomblike underground structure that I deliberately made to be a very futile and frustrating experience. I remember the professor of the class, Andrus Burr, coming up to me afterward, saying quite angrily, "If I had a brother who died in that war, I would never want to visit this memorial." I was somewhat puzzled that he didn't quite understand that World War III would be of such devastation that none of us would be around to visit any memorial, and that my design was instead a prewar commentary.

p. 4:10

I imagined taking a knife and cutting into the earth, opening it up, an initial violence and pain that in time would heal. The grass would grow back, but the initial cut would remain a pure flat surface in the earth with a polished, mirrored surface, much like the surface on a geode when you cut it and polish the edge. Th eneed for the names to be on the memorial would be come the memorial; there was no need to embellish the design further. The people and their names would allow everyone to respond and remember.

It would be an interface, between our world and the quiter, darker, more peaceful world beyond. I chose black granite in order to make the surface reflective and peaceful. I never looked at the memorial as a wall, an object, but as an edge to the earth, an opened side. The mirrored effect would double the size of the park, creating two worlds, one we are part of and one we cannot enter. The two walls were positioned so that one pointed to the Lincoln Memorial and the other pointed to the Washington Monument. By linking these two strong symbols for the country, I wanted to create a unity between the nation's past and present.

p. 4:12

One of the comments made by a juror was "He must really know what he is doing to dare to do someting so naive"

p. 4:16

I remember one of the veterans asking me before the wall was built what I thought people's reaction would be to it. I realized then that these veterans were willing to defend a design they really didn't quite understand. I was too afraid to tell him what I was thinking, that I knew a returning veteran would cry.

Civil Right's Memorial

"we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream" -- Martin Luther King

The names of 40 people who died fighting for civil rights from 1954-1968 (MLK's assassination) and how they died, is inscribed around the memorial, along with pivotal events such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

p. 4:28

In choosing to intertwine events with people's deaths, I was trying to illustrate the cause-and-effect relationship between them. The struggle for civil rights in this country was a people's movement, and a walk around the table reveals how often the act of a single person -- often enough, a single death -- was followed by a new and better law.

maya line.civil rights.jpg

Women's Table

p. 4:39

The Women's Table is the only sculpture I know of with a footnote. The footnote is for the date 1969: Yale admitted women into the undergraduate college.

The central element of this design -- a spiral of numbers representing the number of women taking classes at Yale (officially and unofficially) -- is not visible in any of the photos I find online. It was inspired by a spiral form of the periodic table of elements that Tufte presents in Envisioning Information.

maya lin.womens table.jpg

The rest

I stopped taking notes when the book transitioned to her landscape and museum works, as well as the buildings she's designed. Partly this was because the book does not contain enough photos to fully visualize many of these, and also because, although she tries to escape her title as memorial designer, it's hard to feel as interested in a piece that is not as embued with the level of emotion imcumbent in a memorial -- many of her pieces feel like studies for a greater form unrealized (though I did like her Phases of the Moon piece).

It was interesting seeing the level of Japanese-influence on her design. Many of her building designs mimick Japanese home designs with their convertible space and shoji-like walls, but her take on this was not particularly impressive to me.

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