|Barbie 3-Story Dream Townhouse, Mattel, 2011 (source)
||Barbie Styled by Karl Lagerfeld, Colette Exhibition, Paris, 2009 (source)
When Le Corbusier developed the Modulor, he certainly didn’t have an organism of Barbie’s proportions in mind. Perhaps the most anti-spatial of childhood toys, Barbie complicates the simplest of architectural assumptions. Feet sharpened into points, along with weighty breasts and hair, mean that Barbie cannot stand on her own two feet. Refusing the remedy of a wheelchair for its lack of style (nevermind that she cannot sit in anything but a lounging position due to her stiff knees), Barbie’s idea of a “dream home” is a regular person’s nightmare. While Mattel’s Barbie 3-Story Dream Townhouse yells for attention with its hot pink paint job, it is its slender proportions that are most remarkable. While square footage is typically prized in real estate, Barbie is more interested in linear footage. The narrow building envelope, a mere three feet wide, means that Barbie is always within reach of a stable wall to prop herself against—an architectural cane. And while her resulting angled pose requires her to keep her blonde head constantly pressed to adjacent walls in order to maintain balance, at least she looks great doing it.
E. Sean Bailey
Barbie has long-inspired my irrationality. As a child she was central in shaping my ideas of glamour, reinforcing, in my imagination, the sorts of ideas about femininity that Muccia Prada might frown upon.
Fast-forward to 2011: Mattel has announced the release of Architect Barbie. Rather than being blown away by this combination of two lifelong obsessions, I was disappointed by the outcome of a design brief, which in my mind, was poised to deliver something amazing. Projecting my own misguided stereotypes, I was envisioning a vampy hot-tempered glamazon; a serious but mischievous individual, who is dramatic, opinionated and exudes plenty of attitude. The architectural ideal of my fantasies personified! Instead, Architect Barbie projects an image of some kind of complacent (‘hot’) girl-next-door, and a white one at that.
Her wardrobe reinforces her implausibility as an archetypal architect. As a woman with an eye for design, why would Architect Barbie settle on a poorly constructed pink and purple dress paired with a black polyester jacket, when she has so many pairs of custom-designed Louboutin’s and made-to-measure Chanel already hanging in her closet? At least her played out drawing tube matches her outdated pair of glasses.
Mattel has finally let me down. And for the first time, Barbie’s stereotypical image is raising so many questions in my mind.
Erandi de Silva
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