A few years earlier, Mattel had invited the public to decide whether the next career-oriented Barbie should be a librarian, a police officer, or an architect. Architect Barbie won, but Mattel officials had a change of heart, concluding that little girls would have trouble understanding what architects do.
In the spring of 2007, Ms. Stratigakos revived the idea, asking students and faculty members to develop about a dozen prototypes of Architect Barbie, which she displayed in a gallery in the architecture school. Alongside the dolls she ran a 40-minute film featuring clips of architects as depicted in popular culture: “The angry, determined, creative genius, standing above mediocrity,” and almost always male.
The Barbies grabbed the attention of passers-by, she says, inciting discussions about gender and architecture in both the gallery and in classrooms.