After outgrowing the former P.S. 23 schoolhouse at 70 Mulberry Street, in 2009 MOCA moved into its new home at 215 Centre Street, an old auto garage redesigned by the renowned architect Maya Lin. Lin is best known for her work designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. at the age of 21, while still an undergraduate at Yale University. Her work was chosen as the winner out of 1,421 entries in an anonymous competition held by the U.S. Congress, beating out the entry of her own professor, who had graded her proposal with a B. Her nontraditional, somber design – a dark angle of a wall sunken into the earth listing the veterans’ names chronologically – created extreme controversy, and when it was revealed that the winning designer was a young Chinese American woman, critics used everything from Lin’s age to her ethnicity to try to discredit her entry. Even though Lin’s design was chosen solely on its merit, she was forced to appear before Congress to defend her artistic choices. Ultimately, Lin’s design was built on the compromise that another more “traditional” monument featuring a group of soldiers holding guns was erected nearby, a personal blow to Lin’s vision.
Lin has gone on to create other well-known monuments such as the Civil Rights Monument in Montgomery, Alabama and the Women’s Table at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. A member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Lin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. Currently, Lin focuses on creating installations that bring awareness to the environment.