I don’t remember who posted this but a friend recently tweeted a link to this 2002 essay by Maya Lin on the making of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. More in The New York Review of Books
She talks about her influences including the monument to the missing soldiers of the World War I Battle of the Somme by Sir Edwin Lutyens in Thiepval, France.
To walk past those names and realize those lost lives—the effect of that is the strength of the design. This memorial acknowledged those lives without focusing on the war or on creating a political statement of victory or loss. This apolitical approach became the essential aim of my design; I did not want to civilize war by glorifying it or by forgetting the sacrifices involved. The price of human life in war should always be clearly remembered.
After visiting the site for the proposed Vietnam War Memorial she had her basic concept.
It would be an interface, between our world and the quieter, 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 a 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.