University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


Complex in its cultural significance and entanglements, the Vietnam War is an event that continues to reverberate with social dissonance. The Vietnam Memorial (Maya Lin) sustains multiple, often oppositional, debates surrounding the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Memorial: A Postmodern Reflection examines the significance of the memorial with regard to American cultural history. The physical experience of the memorial-the decisive yet subtle geometry, the polished black marble, the chronological listing of names, and the scarring of the ground plane-is described with particular focus on the bond between material and social "reflection." This paper utilizes the Vietnam Memorial to discuss architecture's ability to evoke, through sensuality, a state of meditation that allows an individual to contemplate his/her relationship to social history. The author states: "Ultimately, the Vietnam Memorial becomes a reflection; a reflection not only of the [literal] image of the visitor, but of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs; visitors are allowed to see themselves and see inside themselves. " Architecture's role in allowing, rather than denying, multiplicity and conflicting social ideologies is discussed.