Architect Barbie is just months away from hitting the shelves at your local retail store. Equipped with a drawing tube and hard hat she’s also fierce, fashionable, talented and even has black framed glass so you know she means business. Mattel’s latest creation has been stirring up some great conversations around the architectural community and beyond. In the past couple of weeks there have been several articles written on Barbie’s new profession from architecture blogs to msnbc.com. It may just be me, but it seems like Barbie’s choice to become an architect has a lot of people talking.
So what’s the big deal? Barbie has had a number of careers over the years, 125 to be exact, including: Lifeguard, Doctor, Pilot, Rap Musician and Presidential Candidate. None of these past careers have led to this kind of conversation, debate and critique but maybe that’s because no one really cared when Barbie became an American Idol Winner or an Ice Capades Star. What ever the reasons may be, here we are, discussing what possible role Architect Barbie will play in the future of our profession.
Many of the critiques found in the blogosphere are purely based on aesthetics. The list includes: an outdated means of transporting drawings, her high heels that would never be allowed on the job site, and her ever so fashionable skyline dress trimmed in pink. Seriously fellow bloggers, that’s all you can come up with? I agree, today’s modern-day female architect would probably not be wearing high heels on the job site, nor would she be carrying around a drawing tub everywhere she goes but let’s focus on who we are critiquing here. Barbie has been a pop icon since 1955. For nearly 60 years Barbie has been known for her high heels, love for pink and not-so-practical fashion sense. So why should we expect anything less from her just because she’s an architect?
On the flip side, there has been a lot of celebration about Barbie finally passing the ARE and becoming a licensed architect. Last week at the AIA National Convention Kelly Hayes McAlonie, 2011 President-Elect for AIA New York, talked about her collaboration with Mattel in designing Architect Barbie: “We hope that through Architect Barbie, little girls everywhere will be introduced to the design professions and imagine the many opportunities available to them, which will promote the diversity of skills and ideas needed in the profession of architecture to meet the challenges of the future.”
Whether you’re a critic or supporter of Architect Barbie you can’t deny that she will have some impact on young girls around the world. Starting this fall, thousands of little girls will be pretending that they are an architect alongside their Barbie dolls. As a profession that continues to lack an equal divide between male and female architects, what better exposure can we have asked for? Honestly, I am personally very excited that Barbie has found her way into our profession. I look forward to purchasing myself an Architect Barbie this fall and placing her proudly on my desk.