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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 1, 2014)
December 1, 2014
THE ASIAN REPORTER n Page 11
A confluence of art, architecture, and memorials
By Kate Hubbard
The Asian Reporter
aya Lin has made waves in the
world of design, architecture,
and art. She is a design force to
be reckoned with, as she uses her
formidable energy and vision to help the
rest of us see the world in new ways.
During the past several years, she’s been
creating something wonderful right in our
Lin was in Portland recently, speaking
to a full house at the City Club of
Portland’s Friday Forum. She is working
on the Confluence Project — the largest
public art installation in the United States
— which stretches 438 miles through
Washington and Oregon. One end is at the
confluence of the Clearwater and Snake
Rivers in Clarkston, Washington. The
other end is at Cape Disappointment,
where Meriwether Lewis and William
Clark finally reached the Pacific Ocean in
Confluence threads the story of the
Lewis & Clark expedition with the history,
ecology, and culture of Pacific Northwest
tribes. The six sites are: Cape Disappoint-
ment State Park, the Vancouver Land
Bridge, the Sandy River Delta, Sacajawea
State Park, Chief Timothy Park, and
Celilo Park. In tandem with the sites,
Confluence has a K-12 education program
that is applied at the local level in a dozen
communities along the Columbia River
Basin. Lin was invited to become involved
after tribal elders saw her design for the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washing-
Colin Fogarty, the executive director of
the Confluence Project, expressed it this
way: “It’s important to pay homage to the
heritage of this land so it can be enjoyed for
generations to come.”
What better person to design the project
than a cutting-edge, world-renowned
artist who burst onto the scene in 1981 as
an undergraduate, winning our hearts
with a memorial that is beloved and visited
by millions. As a monument that has stood
the test of time, the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial design earned Lin the Twenty-
five Year Award by the American Institute
of Architects. We’ve all seen images of
veterans and their families at the
memorial, and heard how it impacts the
hearts of many. The Confluence Project is
a multi-faceted, intricately layered design
challenge that needed this kind of touch.
Lin describes herself as an incredibly
committed environmentalist, and it
shows. Her body of work displays a rich
understanding of the natural world
around us, united with modern tools and
technology. She admits to being fixated on
water and rivers, and she knew the
designs for this project needed to be deeply
committed to the cultural significance of
the sites. With her expertise in site-
specific design, and a strong team of
committed people, Lin is transforming
these locations into beautiful, heart-
warming places to connect with the world
Photo courtesy of Maya Lin Studio
EPIC UNDERTAKING. Maya Lin (bottom
photo) visited Portland recently, speaking to a full
house at the City Club of Portland’s Friday Forum. Lin
is working on the Confluence Project — the largest
public art installation in the United States — which
stretches 438 miles through Washington and Oregon.
One end is at the confluence of the Clearwater and
Snake Rivers in Clarkston, Washington. The other end
is at Cape Disappointment, where Meriwether Lewis
and William Clark finally reached the Pacific Ocean in
1805. Pictured above is the current design of the site
at Celilo Park.
“Confluence is not about loss;
these are memory works.
If we don’t actively
remember our history,
we can’t learn from it.”
around us. Four sites are finished, with
two more slated for completion in the next
“Try to think like a child. When we’re
kids we look because we’ve not seen it
before. As adults we’ve seen it and may not
look,” says Lin.
As part of the project, Lin was tasked
with the delicate assignment of creating a
piece for Celilo Falls, which is an
emotionally laden location for Pacific
Northwest tribes. The falls were flooded in
1957, and the cultural memory remains
strong, still capable of evoking deep grief
for the loss.
Until a dam was built, Celilo Falls was
the most continuously occupied settlement
in North America for more than 10,000
years. Tribes from California to as far
away as British Columbia and the Great
Plains would gather at the location to fish,
trade, socialize, and enjoy the spectacular
beauty of the falls. As such, any art
installed at the location would need to be
much more than functional, more than
simply symbolic. In fact, tribal elders were
so concerned about the design that they
didn’t think anyone should touch it for
Lin was more than up to the challenge.
The design for Celilo Park is planned for
completion in 2016, and it’s brilliant. A
simple curve of beautiful materials will arc
out over the water, evoking the image of
fishing platforms. The story of Celilo Falls
is told along the arc, through the words of
Lewis and Clark, contemporary tribal
members, and oral histories. Only Maya
Lin could design such a simple trajectory
to inspire, heal, and help us connect with
the history of the place. It took a master
designer to meld park restoration, ecology,
and cultural sensitivity into a graceful art
AR Photo/Jan Landis
-- Maya Lin
Many of Lin’s works try to connect the
viewer with what lies underneath.
Whether it’s carefully crafted enormous
folds of earth, a massive hanging diorama
of a waterway, or topographical carvings,
Lin uses her skills to encourage people to
really think about and connect with the
natural world around us. She expressed
concern for what she calls “landscape
amnesia” and cultural forgetfulness about
how much is changing, even in our
“Confluence is not about loss; these are
memory works. If we don’t actively
remember our history, we can’t learn from
an organ and
Not if you haven’t
told your family.
Talk to your family about
organ and tissue donation.
Talk to your family
about donating life.
it,” Lin says.
Lin’s grasp of environmentalism shows
in her choice of materials, her under-
standing of ecology, and her devotion to
sustainable design. With the Confluence
Project, Lin has gifted our region with an
environmentally aware body of work that
will be enjoyed for generations. The
accompanying educational aspect means
the cultural heritage and community
identity of Pacific Northwest tribes will be
honored, and not lost, in history. How
remarkable that a self described “die-hard
modernist, a little on the warm side,” could
create a massive art installation that
harmonizes so many layers of meaning
into one beautiful confluence.
To learn more about Maya Lin and the
Confluence Project, or to contribute to the
project, visit <www.confluenceproject.
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