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AAG Selects Maya Lin as 2013 Honorary Geographer

February 27, 2013

The Association of American Geographers has selected Maya Lin, a renowned artist and architectural designer, to receive the 2013 AAG Honorary Geographer Award. She was selected for the impact her work has had on the way we look at the world and how we relate to it.

Maya Lin By Sharon Styer (Maya Lin/ Cropped prior to upload.) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsMaya Lin (Photo: Sharon Styer [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

Lin, who is best known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., is often inspired by landscape and frequently explores how we relate and respond to the environment. In making its selection for the Honorary Geographer Award, the AAG was impressed with the influence of Lin’s monuments on the world of architecture, and also for the way in which her vision integrates monuments into landscapes in new and dramatic ways. Geographers immediately recognize and deeply appreciate her use of technological methods to study and visualize the world.

Her commitment to the environment has also led Lin to focus on environmental issues and promote sustainable building design in her architectural projects. She often makes the environment the subject of her art. In What is Missing?, her most recent and final memorial, Lin takes on the crisis surrounding biodiversity and habitat loss. This work is a re-imagination of what a monument can be, existing in multiple sites and media including select scientific institutions, a website, and a book. The monument debuted in 2009 with a sound and media sculpture installation at the California Academy of Sciences.

According to her online portfolio,, Lin has received the Presidential Design Award, the Mayor's Award for Arts and Culture, a National Endowment for the Arts artist's award, the William A. Bernoudy Resident in Architecture fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, the Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an AIA Honor Award, and the Finn Juhl Prize. She earned a master’s in architecture from Yale and received honorary doctorates from Yale, Harvard, Williams, and Smith College among others.

Her professional service includes memberships in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2005, Lin was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. She also authored a book, Boundaries, about her work and creative processes.

Inaugurated in 1997, the Association annually bestows its Honorary Geographer Award on an individual to recognize excellence in the arts, research, teaching, and writing on geographic topics by non-geographers. Previous awardees have included economist Jeffrey Sachs, biologist Stephen J. Gould, science historian Charles Mann, author Barbara Kingsolver, Nobel Laureate in economics Paul Krugman, authors Calvin Trillin and Barry Lopez, and sociologist Saskia Sassen.


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