You may have heard that after 52 years and more than 125 careers, Barbie will become an architect in 2011. Mattel's hottest blonde has been everything from a physician to a dog walker and now, she's signing herself up for 3.5 years of a rigorous master's program, ten years of student loans, and a penchant for black turtlenecks.
In all seriousness, we were curious about the larger significance of putting the architecture label on a toy that's been both vilified for its complicity in outdated gender roles and celebrated for its progressiveness (she's the first and only doll who's had careers ranging from astronaut -- before Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon -- and presidential candidate). Great that Barbie's getting an advanced degree, but what's with all the pink?
FIRST REACTIONS: Welcome, and it's about time.
“Considering the company architect Barbie is joining, I’d say it’s about time … I’d also say that Barbie having a good week! Between getting back with Ken on Valentine’s Day and passing her Architectural Registration Exam (ARE), which she’d have to do to be called an architect, I’d say she should be on top of the world right now.”
WHAT THEY LOVE: Hardhats and femininity.
Jenna Knudsen, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Principal, CO Architects // Young Architects Award Winner 2011
“I was happy to see that she has a hardhat, as construction administration is an often overlooked and under appreciated part of the job. It also happens to be one of the more challenging roles for women, as construction sites can be almost exclusively male.”
Kristine C. Royal, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Architecture Royal // Young Architects Award Winner 2010
“Love the city skyline dress, the side pony tail and the black eye glasses (I have had all those things). Love that the hardhat is not pink, and that helps me get past the pink drawing tube and the pink model.” She adds, “Overall, Fabulous.”
Jinhee Park AIA, principal, SsD // Young Architects Award Winner 2009
“Architecture is usually considered a tough profession (which sometimes means it’s a men’s job). It is tough profession and that’s why we need femininity.”
HOW THEY'D STYLE HER: Turtlenecks, work boots, and a tech upgrade.
Amy Slattery, BNIM
More outfits for more roles. “Architects wear many hats (and outfits). I’d like to see her with a line of outfits next. Just imagine steel-toed boots and jeans for the jobsite, the classic black power suit and, of course, a fabulous hot pink track suit for those weekends at home with the kiddos and hubby.”
Jinhee Park, SsD
“I think she should wear a dress with more structured design or a ‘black turtleneck’ … A pink hard hat would be hot!”
“No make-up, cut her hair short.” She’d also add “boots that will not topple over when one tries to walk over 2x4s or steel beams, clothes that are appropriate for climbing ladders at a job site.” She adds, “And get rid of the pink. Contractors hate pink .... and wearing it is a good way to invite animosity before you even start the job.”
Tricia Anne Stuth, AIA, NCARB, Assistant Professor of Architecture at University of Tennessee; Partner, Curb; Principal, Applied Research LLV // Young Architects Award Winner 2010
“Drawing tubes are a thing of the past for travel to business and site, replaced by digital iPads and projectors.”
IMPACT ON THE PROFESSION:
Kristine C. Royal, Architecture Royal
“Do I think this will help attract more young women to the profession? No… The trouble we have is keeping women in the profession and actually converting them to licensed architects.”
Tricia Anne Stuth, Curb and Applied Research LLV
“If the new Barbie sparks a little more curiosity about what it is that architects do, all the better – girls or boys.”
>>> Readers, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Yay or nay on the Architect Barbie? Alternately, what better tools should we give children to encourage an interest in architecture and design?