Art Paper on Concepts and Designs in Architecture

Art Paper on Concepts and Designs in Architecture

Different structures attract different architectural designs. On the same note, concepts and terminologies that are used in architecture vary by the structure being designed. Consequently, an architect has a salient role to play concerning the project design. The purpose for which the structure to be constructed is aimed to play also tend to influence the architectural terminologies to be used. This research is going to explore architecture concepts and terminologies in five memorial projects that were designed by Maya Lin. The research is also going to extend to the World Trade Center Site Memorial and Holocaust memorials.

One of the most famous projects that Maya Lin designed was Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial was built to honor people who died in the Vietnamese war. When one takes a walk through its park-like area, the appearance of the memorial is like that of a rift protruding from the earth. The wall of the memorial consists of a black stone that is long and polished. The ground surrounding the memorial tends to slope gently in a downward fashion. There are some low walls that have been built to emerge on either side of the memorial. The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial unlike other memorials that take the form of an unchanging monument, it adopts a form that can be described as a moving composition. The architectural design of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial can be best understood when one move in and out of it. The design that Maya Lin employed when she was designing The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial was that of minimalist and nontraditional. The outward view of the memorial shows that it has granite slab that is V-shaped. The slab is deigned such that its appearance seems to rise from the ground. Apparently, the granite’s strength tends to contrast the softness of the surrounding grass. It is this contrast that gives a balance between the memorial’s architecture and nature. One thing that makes The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial unique and magnificent is its horizontal poise that makes it seem as if it is entering the ground instead of piercing the sky (Mccurdy 14) .The construction of the memorial entailed recon touring the whole area that lies within the wall’s boundaries. This was aimed to provide descent that is easily accessible.

Civil Rights Memorial is another project that Maya Lin is credited for designing. The building was designed to commemorate the lives of 41 people that were lost during the struggle for equal rights in Montgomery, Alabama. The concept that Maya Lin used in designing the memorial was premised on the soothing effect that water provides. In doing this Maya was guided by the clarion call that had reigned demonstrations culminating in the killings. Maya designed the memorial to take the shape of a fountain. It is a cone that is asymmetrically inverted. A film of water is guided to flow over the cone’s base (Mccurdy 8). Apparently, it is at the base where the 41 names of those who lost their lives are inscribed. Maya used an architectural concept that makes it possible to alter the surface film by simply touching the water film. The surface film then returns to smoothness with utmost speed.

The confluence project is also an epitome of architectural concepts and designs that characterized Maya Lin works.  In designing this project, Lin created installations that comprised of seven art pieces. The installations were done along with a river known as Columbia. The confluence project qualifies to be a memorial one because it is largely based in the sites’ cultural history. The monumental size of the project is manifested by the sheer land size of 15,000 in which it lies. In these series of projects, Maya Lin has carefully redesigned the spaces in such a manner that a visitor first gets the impression of the landscape. The design achieves the sole objective of reconnecting any visitor back to the surrounding land. On the same note, the impression consists of both historical and cultural histories associated with each place. This serves to accord anybody a deeper understanding as far as those sites are concerned. The first phase of the confluence project to be completed was the Cape Disappointment. The site is made up of an outdoor amphitheater and an area that is restored oceanfront dunes. On the same note, there is a built pathway that bayside to the other ocean side. The pathway is designed to take visitors through wetlands that have already been restored. A walk along this pathway will give a glimpse of the ecosystem changes that occur when saltwater is changed to freshwater. At the bay, Maya Lin removed a significant portion that constituted the parking area. At its place, Maya replaced the parking portion with a sustainable landscape. This is aimed to filter any runoff water occasioned by the storm. Consequently, Maya installed a viewing platform that would draw visitors to the edge of the water. A rusty sink used to for fish cutting was replaced by a basalt table. Maya designed a stone sculpture that was inscribed with a myth of creation relating to the surrounding chinook people.

According to Mccurdy, “Maya Lin’s work also comprises of a sculpture structure known as ‘Above and Below’ in the Indianapolis Art Museum” (13). Maya got the inspiration for designing this artwork from the underground water systems that are prominent in Indiana. The sculpture has the area of about 190m2. The structure of the sculpture is made up of strewn aluminum tubing that has been designed to look like water flowing (). The fabrication of the sculpture was done at Lin’s studio that is owned by Maya Lin. The data was then translated into series consisting of contour curves.

Another classic masterpiece that depicts Maya Lin’s work is Langston Hughes Library. The building house a non-circulating library and is located in Tennessee. The library occupies a space of 1200 square foot. Consequently, it is a two story building. Maya Lin incorporated an exterior that consists of a refurbished barn. Apparently, the exterior in the Langston Hughes Library is designed in such a way that it arouses the architectural vernacular that reigned in the 19th century Tennessee. It is paramount to note that Maya who was the lead architect in Langston Hughes Library opined that both the interior and the exterior had different functions hence the difference in their design. The exterior of the library building was made up of a reclaimed barn laced with two corncribs. Glass and steel bards were used to hold the two components together. A threaded steel rod is used to support the crib walls. This serves the goal of bringing the new architectural element into exposure rather than hiding it. Link designed new materials to make up for the library’s interior. According to Mccurdy, “Maya used sisal mats, recycled soya bean husks, and maple for the wall materials. Lin made that any material used especially for the wall was either green or recycled. The design of the library’s interior is such that there is flooding of natural daylights via huge windows and skylights. This reduces the need for any artificial lighting. The two cribs are separated by an exterior space which consists of a small stone fountain” (15). The designer of the exterior space is such that it gives a positive space when moving out of a void. There is a nearby pod that has been created to serve as an exchanger. This has served to reduce the energy bill for the library as the heat exchanger is naturally devoid of any electricity use.

Another building that has unique architectural design is US Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was designed by James Ingo Freed who was the lead architect of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. The architecture which was employed in designing this holocaust museum emanated from ideas that depicted the history of the holocaust. In this regard, the architectural concepts in this museum are such that they evoke memories of occurrences witnessed in the holocaust. At just a mere glance, the exterior of US Holocaust Memorial Museum appears benign. According to Mccurdy, “the three sides of the exterior i.e. south, east and west, tend to be enveloped with limestone” (11). The northern side of the building has roofs that are pyramid shaped. Consequently, the building is laced with elements of concealment that highlight high degree of deception. The building is not as it seems just from the mere glance. For example, the 14th Street entrance that is portico curved is just a mere facade. It has squared arches, grated windows, and cubed lights. On the same note, there is a fake screen that acts as an opening to the sky. This screen makes a deliberate attempt of hiding the uncharacteristic architecture consisting of skewed lines coupled to hard surfaces that make up the real entrance. The entrance design is usually likened to visitors passing through the partition laced limestone to make an entry in a concrete world. Mccurdy notes that “the north brick walls are awash with series of sentry boxes and camp guard towers. The western entrance has a limestone mantle holding a solitary window that is made up of 16 solid panes” (14). A view at the Hall of Remembrance reveals its separation from the main building. The hall consists of six imposing walls that are embedded by open corners giving the appearance of freestanding tablets. Blind recesses that are blocked over also gives the appearance of troubled messages that are in the Museum.

The Holocaust memorial Center built in Israel is a magnificent piece of architecture that epitomize concepts employed in the arena of built environment. Since the Jews were the victims of the holocaust, it was expected that they would build a solid memorial as a remembrance of the tribulations that were meted on them. It is in this context that Moshe Safdie who is a world acclaimed architect was contracted to design the project. The Holocaust History Museum takes the shape of a prism-like triangle. It penetrates on either side of the mountain whereby both ends are designed to cantilever into the air. The structure was designed to take a triangular form to offer support on the earth’s pressure rising above the prism to bring daylight from the skies above at a distance of 200 meters. The whole distance consists of glass. There is the provision of skylight that allows contrast of daylight gleams with the rest of darker areas for purposes of multimedia presentations. The galleries are designed such that there is the entry of light via localized skylights that varies from glass that is diffused to clear one. The passage of light depends on each exhibit’s requirements (Mccurdy 14. The reinforcement of the entire museum structure i.e. interior, exterior, walls, and floors were done by concrete. The triangular section varies across the entire prism whereby it becomes narrower as it approaches the center. This variation creates a warped surface whose amplification is done by the floor sloping gently. The resulting illusion is that of descending into a steep mountain (Marcuse 60). The ascension of the floor begins ta as the route approaches its northern exit. The exit burst forwards giving a magnificent view of Jerusalem.

The architectural concepts and designs that comprise The New England Holocaust memorial are worth enumerating. The memorial design is such that it is surrounded by six glass towers that are luminous. Each tower has the height of 54 feet. Consequently, each tower is internally lit from top to bottom. In designing these towers, there is an element of symbolism that has been applied. The number six that comprise the towers depict six million Jews whose holocaust saw them lose their lives. On the same note number six symbolizes the six death camps where the massacre of the Jews to place. The number six also symbolize the six years that the holocaust took place in the course of the Second World War. According to Marcuse, “the glass is also etched with millions of numbers that represent deadly tattoos done on the victims’ arms” (61). The horror meted during the holocaust is depicted by the brutal tree cutting on half the site where the memorial is built. The bottom of each pit is lit with glowing fire. There are didactic panels at the two entries. One panel outlines the series of events that culminated in the establishment of factories of death. The other quotes Pastor Martin Niemoller who pegged the responsibility of the horrific events on every individual. The path of the memorial is designed in such a way that a visitor entering the towers tends to experience moments of horror thanks to the embedded tattoos of the victims. According to Marcuse, “the black granite ramps have been incised the word REMEMBER on their sides” (59). The design of the six towers is aimed to emblem faith and an element of trust that remembers and abhors collective evil.

The holocaust memorial built in Brazil was completed in 2007.It consisted of an entry gate that led to the newly refurbished obituary pavilion. The main wall of the memorial is oriented such that if faces the direction of Jerusalem. This design was copied from the synagogue tradition. The project’s design creates a space whose formation is done by shadow and light. Apparent concrete that is brutal and non-perfect to symbolize the pain that the victims of holocaust experienced. The design of the main volume is in the form of a cube that measures 4x4x4 meters. The three sides of this cube are partially closed. Likewise, they are open to the west façade cemetery via a portico. The portico tends to emphasize the relationship existing between the form and symbol. The interior of the memorial has space whose outline is done by a steel box and a bench. The box is used for purposes of and lighting illustrating a long time Jewish tradition (Marcuse 80) .The design of space in the memorial is such that it controls both interior and exterior relationship. The serenity created by this design gives an allowance to the visitor for meditation time. The Salvador Holocaust Memorial has its architectural concepts and designs emanating from Jewish values. The designs try to reconcile the aspect of Jewish religion and the holocaust evils meted on the Jews.

The memorial that was designed in remembrance of the September 11 terrorist attack was built on the original site of former World Trade Center. Apparently, the designers of the memorial built it in an integrated site where the new complex of World Trade Center is located. The memorial’s design has an open and welcoming aura. This is meant to foster values that are somewhat democratic in the sense that it is these values that galvanized the Americans during the terrorist attack and enabled them to mount a stronger comeback. The site consisting the memorial is an imposing eight-acre land. The site is at the city center, and it is surrounded by a canopy of about four hundred trees. Visitors making entry to the memorial are met with two reflecting pools (Heath-Kelly 11). The two pools are designed in such a way that they seem to puncture the surrounding compounding. The pools are lined by some artificial waterfalls by recessing them at thirty feet. The current position of the two pools also tends to obscure the location where the former towers once stood. The voids have been visible to arouse memories of the former towers.

The design of the voids that depicts where the World Trade Center once stood is one of the most critical works that was given premium in the whole course of building the memorial. Each void is built such that it is surrounded by water table whose width is eight foot and height is two foot. The water tables serve as the source where the waterfalls emanate from. The design of the water table and the voids are such that they are embedded with dark gray granite. The designers emphasized on quarrying the granite all the way from Virginia. This is because of their renowned quality. The weir has its metal edge serrated to form several channels of water. When the visitors view the water flowing in these channels, their minds are aroused by the fact that thousands of people lost there on the site sometimes back. Another reason why the water falls were incorporated was to mute sound coming from the city. This kind of design was aimed to ensure that the sanctuary of the memorial is maintained. In the course of designing the memorial a lot of pedestrian simulation was conducted. This was aimed to project the space that visitors are likely to utilize in the course of their memorial site visit. The architectural design of the billowing water curtain is tailored such that strands of water in their sounds represent the deceased people. In the September 11 memorial, the incision of victims’ names is done on the bronze panels that are darkly painted. The names tend to appear as shadows during the day. This is highly marked by the sheer absence of materials. During the night, the panels that adopt a wing-like profile are inwardly illuminated. Each inscribed name is inscribed with a glow that is very illuminating. The designs of the panel appear simple on the surface, but all the other aspects are highly sophisticated. According to Heath-Kelly,  “the sophistication consists of precise engineering work that ensures the panels are insulated from the rigors occasioned by lighting, cooling concealed heating and any form of thermal expansion”  (15). The families of the victims were consulted during the design process. Apparently, each family was asked to provide all the name details that they would like their loved ones to be inscribed with. This explains why the names appear to be so that is not discernible.

Designs and concepts relating to architecture are represented on various structures that are awash in the built environment. Architectures express and expose unique concepts and designs in the structures that they build. This is evidenced by the close study of the memorials that are highly unique in their structural design. This is because each memorial is designed to achieve a unique purpose. Notable architects like Maya Lin have left imprints in the architectural arena due to the magnificent buildings they have designed and unique designs and concepts they have employed.

The designs of Maya Lin have brought the general public together in spirit of recollection, reflection, and self-effacement. Of the power of the work, Lin wrote, “I like to think of my work as creating a private conversation with each person, no matter how public each work is and no matter how many people are present.”  (“Maya Lin”)

The result of changes to the environment made by people over time and as an expression of their lived experience is known as “the built environment”.  The Construction of buildings and architecture is one of the many components of the built environment. For example architecture itself can be divided into many kinds e.g. domestic and public. Public architecture is typically understood to be larger in scale, outstanding in appearance, and more reflective of a larger group of people or population rather than one family or subset of a population. The term “public” is used in reference to architecture associated with the congregation of people beyond their own private, or domestic, sphere. Thus the public architecture refers to building and spaces that were used or occupied in connection with public activities.

In November 22, 2016: President Barack Obama while presenting Maya Lin with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C said, “Her pieces have changed the landscape of our country and influenced the dialogue of our society — never more profoundly than with her tribute to Americans who fell in Vietnam by cutting a wound into the Earth to create a sacred place of healing in our Nation’s capital.”

Maya Lin brought awareness to habitat loss.


Works Cited

Heath-Kelly, Charlotte. “Reflecting absence? Disaster recovery and the World Trade Center.” Manchester University Press, 2017, doi:10.7228/manchester/9781784993139.003.0004.

Marcuse, Harold. “Holocaust Memorials: The Emergence of a Genre.” The American Historical Review, vol. 115, no. 1, 2010, pp. 53–89., doi:10.1086/ahr.115.1.53.

Mccurdy, Leah. “Architecture of the Maya: Public Architecture.” Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, 2014, pp. 1–15., doi:10.1007/978-94-007-3934-5_10151-1.

“Maya Lin” website Accessed on 7 Aug, 2017.