That feeling when you win a national competition, but your professor still gives you a B.

Since 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has stood to honor fallen soldiers. Its simple black walls have more than 58,000 names inscribed in granite. It’s become one of the most important memorials in America. And it was designed by a 21-year-old, Chinese-American college student.

Maya Lin won a national design competition, beating out 1,400 other competitors. She even beat her architecture professor, who had given her a ‘B’ on the assignment.

Knowing the brutal costs of the war, Maya didn’t want the memorial to be garish. She wanted an honest representation of the fallen soldiers.

So she designed two black walls that start from the ground and connect. Maya envisioned it as a “wound that is closed and healing.”

The monument was met harshly by critics expecting a more grand design. Veterans and congressman protested the memorial. Eventually the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts came to a compromise on the design adding a sculpture of fallen soldiers to the monument.

Maya was so hurt by this that she didn’t attend the compromise meeting. She wanted to produce a neutral statement, but not all understood her message.

Maya has continued her career as a successful architect and artist. And the monument remains to remember our fallen soldiers.

Sources

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