Architect Barbie, a New Career Path

Review by Jackie Craven

The "I Can Be an Architect" Barbie Doll by Mattel is available in light blonde or dark brunette. Photo © Jackie Craven

Barbie, the popular doll by Mattel, has taken on more than 120 jobs: flight attendant, pediatrician, dolphin trainer, TV chef, dance teacher, veterinarian, computer engineer, you name it. In 2011, after 50 years, she finally became an architect. (Those licensing exams are tough!)

"I Can Be" Doll Designed to Inspire Girls

How can you encourage girls to imagine themselves in a profession that is traditionally male?

The Mattel toy company developed a specialized line of dolls. Architect Barbie is part of their "I Can Be" series of career path Barbie dolls.

Of course, Barbie is a fantasy toy and Architect Barbie is not like any architect you're likely to meet in real life. For one thing, she wears high heeled boots, a blue dress with skyscrapers embossed on the bodice, and a clunky pink bracelet. And she carries blueprints in a bright pink tube. And then there's the pink plastic model house. Yikes, that's a lot of pink!

Pros Defend Barbie

Still, many pros—both male and female—say that Architect Barbie is a step in the right direction. AIA Member Kelly Hayes McAlonie and architecture professor Despina Stratigakos helped Mattel develop the doll. "This is a wonderful opportunity for little girls to see how they can influence their environment and dream about becoming an architect and shaping their community," Hayes McAlonie said in her statement to the press.

More than 400 school girls participated in promotional Architect Barbie workshops at the AIA Convention in May 2011. Huddled around long tables, the children appeared to be enthralled with the new Barbie doll and eager to learn how to draw plans for their own dream houses.

Who Is Barbie?

Barbie was the brainchild of Ruth Handler, the wife of a co-founder at the Mattel toy company.

She thought that little girls would enjoy playing with dolls that looked like adults instead of infants. Mattel executives resisted the idea, but during a trip to Europe, Handler found a popular German doll with an adult figure. The doll, Bild Lilli, became the inspiration for a new type of American doll named Barbie after Handler's daughter.

The first Barbie doll debuted at the International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. Her looks have altered over the years and her body proportions have changed, but she hasn't lost her pretty face or shapely figure. Learn more about Barbie's busy life:

Barbie Notstalgia

When the first Barbie appeared in stores, my favorite toy of the day was a Handy Andy toolbox with a real hammer and saw. If a well-meaning Santa Claus had given me a Barbie doll, I probably would have taken her apart to see how the joints worked. But my reaction wasn't typical. Girls in my class went wild for the plastic figurine. Suddenly every 10-year-old girl had to own the doll along with a full wardrobe of clothes and fashion accessories. Fifty years later, some say that Barbie changed their lives. Perhaps Architect Barbie will make a difference for today's little girls.

  • Life With the Barbie Doll
  • Boys and Barbie Dolls
  • Vintage Barbie Dolls

Investing in Barbie

If Architect Barbie is like her predecessors, she's not just a toy. For passionate collectors, Barbie dolls are treasures that increase in value and eventually yield dividends at auctions and antique fairs.

  • Barbie Collecting Resources
  • Top Barbie Dolls

More About Architect Barbie

Architect Barbie was introduced to the world at the AIA National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana in May 2011. Her debut stirred a media buzz.

Where to Buy Architect Barbie

I Can Be Barbie dolls are generally widely available in stores and online. The occupation-based series is in constant market flux, however, as Barbie leaves one occupation to enter another.

It seems Barbie cannot hold a job, or perhaps she's just easily distracted. Between 2011 and 2015, Architect Barbie was available in two models—African-American and Caucasian. It turns out that Architect Barbie was a fun gift to give young architecture students and professionals. Today, these people may want to consider re-gifting on eBay for these difficult to find dolls.