Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
Meet Architect Barbie
Barbie has been a doctor, a dentist, a vet and a racecar driver, but now the iconic doll that has inspired and entertained little girls for generations takes on the job of architect. With the help of two American Institute of Architects members, Mattel Inc., has announced plans for Architect Barbie -- complete with hard hat and blueprints -- to be the latest addition to its ‘’Barbie I Can Be…’’ line of dolls.
Slated for release this summer, Mattel will spotlight architecture as its ‘’Career of the Year’’ for the Barbie line and hopes to educate and encourage girls to consider architecture when thinking about what their jobs could be as adults.
“For more than 50 years Barbie has served as a reflection of fashion, culture and aspiration to girls of all ages,” says Mattel spokesperson Michelle Chidoni. “Barbie inspires girls to try on different careers, encouraging them to play out their dreams and explore the world and all of its possibilities without ever having to leave home. We believe role-playing with Barbie leads to real life opportunities, and are very proud to introduce I Can Be...Architect Barbie as our 2011 career of the year.”
Barbie has more than 125 careers on her resume, and each year Mattel looks to expand that number with roles that are both aspirational and culturally relevant.
As of November 2010, 17 percent of AIA members were women. ‘’This is a wonderful opportunity for little girls to see how they can influence their environment and dream about becoming an architect and shaping their community,’’ says Kelly Hayes McAlonie, AIA, LEED AP, an Associate Director of the Capital Planning Group at the University at Buffalo and 2011 President-Elect for AIA New York State. ‘’Pop culture influences our career decisions and Barbie, for little girls, is an important influence.’’ The fact that this is occurring on the 125th anniversary of women in architecture makes this event even more special.’’ Louise Bethune, FAIA, was admitted to the Western Association if Architects in November, 1885.
Hayes McAlonie and Despina Stratigakos, Assoc. AIA, an internationally recognized historian and professor in the Architecture Department at the University of Buffalo, consulted with Mattel as they created Architect Barbie. Stratigakos has encouraged Mattel to consider architecture as a field for Barbie since it first announced the possibility in 2002.
‘’This not only recognizes the generations of women that have been in this field, but it taps into the imagination of little girls for what is possible. I’m hoping it gets girls to start thinking about the things they could be building,’’ says Stratigakos, who has been published widely on the history of women in architecture, including her award-winning book, A Women’s Berlin: Building the Modern City (2008), the story of a forgotten metropolis designed by and for women.
“It’s great that Mattel is recognizing the importance and continued emergence of women in our field,” says AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA. “Moreover, Architect Barbie presents a wonderful opportunity to reach out to young girls at an important, early stage in their lives and let them imagine for themselves all of the great career aspects that go with being an architect.”
Hayes McAlonie and Stratigakos wrote a letter to Mattel a year ago advocating for Architect Barbie. Last July, the toy giant contacted them and said it planned to move forward and asked for their help in ensuring the doll’s accuracy.
Mattel says it created Architect Barbie so girls can imagine designing their own dream house. In its marketing messaging for the doll, Mattel calls Barbie ‘’ready to tackle the daily responsibilities of a real architect in or out of the office.’’
Architect Barbie will wear a blue and pink dress depicting a city skyline. She also wears black boots and a short black jacket. She carries a pink tube with blueprints over one shoulder. Mattel calls the outfit ‘’symmetrically stylish with bold colors and clean lines.’’ The company also notes in its message that it consulted with the AIA to keep the doll ‘’authentic to the career.’’