Move over, Howard Roark. There is a new architect in town and she is not afraid of the color pink. Matte's Architect Barbie, icon of the building trades, is ready for launch. Eleven-and-one-half inches tall in her trendy ankle boots and carrying a hard hat and pink drawing tube, the doll channels "Barbie's rebellious side," according to a University at Buffalo (N.Y.) professor who helped bring her to the public stage--and Barbie already is generating talk among practicing architects about the role of women in the field.
The 127th doll in Mattel's "Barbie I Can Be ..." series was a long time coming. Since 2002, when Architect Berbie won Matters competition for Barbie's next career, Despina Stratigakos, professor of architecture and visual studies, had hoped the doll would be produced, but it never showed up on store shelves. In 2010, after Architect Barbie lost a second election to Computer Engineer Berbie, Stratigakus teamed up with colleague Kelly McAIonie, interim director of the Capital Planning Group, to encourage Mattel to see the project through. Mattel was looking to highlight careers where women are underrepresented and "architect" seemed to be the just right fit for 2011.
Mattel looked to Stratigakos and McAIonie to assist in designing the doll, as it was important that Architect Barbie capture the spirit of an emerging generation of female designers and be something of which they could be proud. The doll was introduced to the public in mid May at the American Institute of Architects national convention in New Orleans and will be on store shelves in August, although online presales started in May.
Stratigakos is recognized internationally for her research on women in architecture. She is the author of A Women's Berlin: Building the Modern City', which explores the conception of a city built by--and for--women. In 2007, she curated an exhibition of prototypes for Architect Barbie that focused attention on gendered stereotypes within the architectural profession. McAIonie, meanwhile, is the biographer of Louise Blanchard Bethune, who, in 1885, became the first woman admitted to a professional architectural association.
"We hope Architect Barbie not only introduces young girls to the profession," says Stratigakos, "but that these girls shake things up once they get there. Although women comprise 40% of the students in architectural degree programs, they struggle to enter and remain in practice. We see this...