Who’s savvy on design, carries a set of blueprints, and isn’t shy of the color pink? Sounds like Barbie, to me! That’s right: As the latest addition to Mattel’s “I Can Be” line of career dolls, the new Architect Barbie officially was introduced at Toy Fair, held February 13-16 at the Javits Center in New York. She boasts black glasses, a hard hat, a dress with a skyline motif, a pink tube to carry her blueprints, and a model pink house.
The new Barbie was created along with help from the AIA, although the organization officially did not partner with Mattel. Two AIA members in upstate New York, Kelly Hayes McAlonie, AIA, MRAIC, LEED-AP, and Despina Stratigakos, Associate AIA, “were part of the conversation with the company,” says an AIA spokesperson. The doll’s release conveniently coincides with the 125th anniversary of the first woman architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune. “We’re pleased that a new generation of young people have an opportunity to imagine becoming an architect. Look for the doll in stores later this year.
While many in A&D were hyped last year at the potential of an Architect Barbie (the doll was one of the options for the online I Can Be vote in 2010 but lost to News Anchor Barbie and Computer Engineer Barbie) and its potential generational outreach and inspiration to attract more women designers into the industry, not everyone is so pleased with the realization of the doll.
One site, Treehugger.com, critiques the doll’s appearance—her “fashionista” style and lack of career realism (she doesn’t look sleep deprived enough)—as well as the accompanying dollhouse, saying that “the real problem with Architect Barbie is that horrible house; it appears to have more plastic than the Monsanto House of the Future. In an era when we are trying to promote natural, healthy materials, she is in a Karim Rashid pink plastic palace.” Another comments that “she should be wearing all-black, including maybe a black mock turtle neck, and she needs to trim that pony tail. But that's just me.”
What’s your take? Do you love the new Architect Barbie; or is she a bit too far out of the box when it comes to giving a realistic impression of the profession?