'MAKERS': Maya Lin on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Beyond

Maya Lin: Artist, Architect & Memorial Designer

Makers.com One of the most visited spots in Washington, D.C. started out as a school project. Maya Lin developed the idea for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial during her senior year at Yale University, a process that came together in a moment of inspiration.

After seeing the memorial site on the National Mall and researching for almost two months, Lin went to bed one night. "The next morning I thought let's cut open the earth and open it up," Lin says. "That's all it was."

She shares the full story behind her now-iconic memorial in "MAKERS: Women Who Make America," a documentary airing tonight on PBS. A joint project of PBS and AOL, "MAKERS" chronicles the past 50 years of the women's movement through the stories of Lin and other trailblazers. (Check the listings for local air times.)

Lin's design ignited a firestorm of protests from Vietnam veterans. But soon after it debuted in 1982, the memorial became a touchstone for veterans and played a key role in healing the nation's post-war wounds. Four million people now visit the wall every year. "I knew I was right," Lin says. "[The initial reaction] wasn't just about the aesthetics. It was about that I knew that if that project was built it would help people. I cannot answer why I knew that. I'd never known anyone who died. All I knew is if we could face death, face it honestly, only then can we get over it."

Lin's memorial also launched a career that has seen her create artwork and memorials throughout the world. You can see five of her can't-miss works in person in the destinations in the gallery below.

Maya Lin: Five Can't-Miss Works
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'MAKERS': Maya Lin on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Beyond

U.S. veterans point out a familiar name at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial following a Veterans Day ceremony, Nov. 11, 2006. The wall is granite and V-shaped, with the names of 58,272 fallen soldiers carved into its face.

Lin's Civil Rights Memorial Fountain in Montgomery, Alabama honors 40 people who died in the struggle for civil rights.

Lin's Women's Table sculpture at Yale University commemorates the school's female students.

[Photo by ragesoss]

Each of the seven sites of the Confluence Project features an art installation by Lin that interprets the area's ecology and history. This view is of the Columbia River from one of the overlooks at the Fort Vancouver confluence.

Lin's 84-foot cast of the Colorado River is made entirely of reclaimed silver. The sculpture is on display at the Aria Resort & Casino.

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