I can be.....

Saturday, 14 January 2012


The architectural world seems a buzz at the moment with the fact that the Architects Journal has put Barbie on the front cover for its Women in Practice edition. As a child I had many Barbies that I would regularly build houses for out of cereal boxes, toilet roll tubes, sugar paper, newspaper.... anything I could lay my hands on! Think Blue Peter's Tracey island but for girls! I wasn't that bothered about all her different clothes or shoes but if I could build it or get her to drive it then I was hooked. That was until one day at the age of ten after having been ridiculed by the boys I would play with, "Barbies are such a girls toy!" "You're such a girl to play with those!" I ceremoniously ripped the heads and limbs off each and every one I owned in a totally misplaced act of rebellion... stupid me to be influenced so badly, but hey I was 10!



 So imagine my delight at seeing the new Mattel Architect Barbie gracing the shelves of the toy stores. The positive career role models being produced under the "I Can Be" range is a long time coming from Mattel for a toy which began life in March 1959. Over the years barbie has been the subject of many parodies, lawsuits and studies but I think this is the first time I have ever noticed such a positive feedback on the toy.

It has been in development for a while with prototypes being produced in 2007, in the photo below are some produced by Architecture Students at Taubman College, Enesh Easlick (doll on the left) and Mashawnta Armstrong, (doll on the right) for the University of Michigan.


 Last year the launch of the toy also sparked a design competition by the American Institute of Architects to design Barbies' Dream house. With 8,470 public votes Ting Li, Assoc. AIA, LEEP AP and Maja Paklar, Assoc. AIA were clear winners of the competition, their feminine concept encapsulating the essence of an ambitious and skilled Architect Barbie®.


 I became incredibly excited whilst researching this blog when I came across the "I Can Be" section of the Barbie website, where budding young architects (children) can use a simple web based programme to design their own Barbie store. Here is my attempt at designing the store......





 After having printed my work of art as  PDF I was sorely tempted to print the results at a much larger scale, say A0, but thankfully I resisted and only used A3.

I also need to draw peoples attention to the comical description from the Mattel shop website:
"Barbie I Can Be... dolls and accessories empower girls to play out different roles and "try on" fabulous careers. Capturing the spirit and style of young architects, Barbie I Can Be... Architect showcases a symmetrically stylish outfit featuring the bold colours and clean lines of the city skyline, with essential on-the-job accessories to design her newest Dream House®. What an inspiring doll!"
Do architects really wake up in the morning and think... Yes! today I am going to dress symmetrically!.... I had noticed that the Architects Journal had shunned the symmetrical denim dress in favour of a more vampish chic LBD.


Now all I need to do is to see if Structural Engineering can be the next big career for Barbie.... maybe some prototypes are in order?!?




1 comment:

@CivilPengineer said...

Don't you think it's insulting to women that the Architects' Journal is using an image of Barbie as the cover image for an article on women architects? To me that image is implying that female architects are fake plastic sex objects dressing up as architects. Also, using an image of a toy suggests that women are just playing at architecture. Why not have a picture of an actual female architect along with some of her work?