UCI Arts Plaza

Commissioning Maya Lin, the artist and architect famous for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to transform UC Irvine's central public space attracted lots of attention and prestige back in 2000. But the finished product cost $3.6 million and consists of a pretty unspectacular amphitheater, three rows of grass and a white screen, accompanied by Lin's signature water table fountain flanked by "whispering" benches that play music and poetry. The idea was to offer students 30,000 feet of space for study and reflection while expanding its venue for performance and art exhibition. A few more parking spaces might have been nice. Yeah, Lin's all about minimalism, symbolism and subtlety, blah blah blah. But seriously—$3.6 million?

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