With the launch of Architect Barbie by the AIA and Mattel comes a chance for architects to design a Dream House that meets her guidelines, including room for an office, open living and dining areas, and plenty of room for her five pets, including her giraffe.

The competition began on May 16. The AIA and Mattel will announce five finalists on July 12 and the public will be able to vote for their favorites between July 12 and August 1. The winner will be announced by the AIA on August 2.

Mattel officials and leaders from the American Institute of Architects used the 2011 AIA National Convention in May to launch Barbie I Can Be …Architect, the latest in a series of career-focused Barbies aimed at encouraging a new generation of girls to pursue a career in architecture.

‘’I think it’s wonderful,’’ said AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA. ‘’To be able to partner with Mattel and to see these young girls get an opportunity to hear about architecture and to see their enthusiasm when they are drawing and coloring. For me, that, in itself, is a joy.’’

Mattel is spotlighting architecture as its ‘’Career of the Year’’ for Barbie and hopes to educate and encourage girls to consider the field when thinking about what their jobs could be when they become adults.

‘’For more than a century, women have chosen to become architects to express and give form to new ways of living. Yet some still consider architecture an unusual profession for a woman. Architect Barbie salutes the many generations of women architects and encourages young girls to imagine a better world they can design and build,” said Despina Stratigakos, Assoc. AIA and Professor of Architectural History at the University at Buffalo.

Stratigakos and Kelly Hayes McAlonie, AIA, LEED AP, Interim Assistant Vice President of the Capital Planning Group at the University at Buffalo and 2011 President-Elect for AIA New York State, worked with Mattel to develop Architect Barbie.

Barbie has more than 125 careers on her resume, and each year Mattel looks to expand that number with roles that are both aspirational and culturally relevant.

“For over 50 years Barbie has  inspired girls to try on over 125 different careers, encouraging them to play out their dreams and explore the world and all of its possibilities,” said Lisa McKnight, Vice President, Barbie Marketing.

“We believe role-playing with Barbie leads to real life opportunities and are very proud to partner with the AIA and its members to bring Architect Barbie to girls of all ages and to continue to inspire girls and women with the belief that they can do anything.”

Hayes McAlonie and Stratigakos wrote a letter to Mattel more than a year ago advocating for Architect Barbie. Last July, the toy giant contacted them and said it planned to move forward and asked for their help in ensuring the doll’s accuracy.

At convention, both led workshops at Mattel’s Barbie floor booth, talking with hundreds of girls throughout the day about architecture as they worked on dream homes of their own.

Designed in a distinct – and pink – Barbie theme, Mattel’s convention showroom featured picnic tables where the girls could work on their projects, receive information about women in the history of architecture, and a see a display of vintage Barbies from decades past, including Astronaut Barbie from 1965.

‘’The girls really enjoyed the workshops. We designed the workshops to provide the girls with a basic understanding of the role of an architect, the history of women in the architectural profession and short charette that exposed them to the design process,’’ said Hayes McAlonie. ‘’ They were enthusiastic about each aspect of the workshop.’’

Stratigakos said seeing the girls at convention made her realize the full value of what Architect Barbie can be about.

‘’One of my favorite floor plans, created by a seven-year-old girl, included a room for monsters; by acknowledging their presence and giving them their own space, the rest of the house would remain monster-free – a design solution to an eternal childhood problem that would have put Freud out of business,’’ said Stratigakos.

Posted in AIA.