In 1962, three years after Barbie was born, Mattel launched the Barbie Dream House: a folding cardboard ranch house, the first in a long line of abodes that evolved with the times.

Then it was plastic in pastel colors. The houses became veritable palaces, often electrified, with elevators, sunny terraces, modern European furniture, recycling bins and several bedrooms… even if Barbie remained eternally single, never sharing with Ken nor the lease or mortgage.

For the 60th anniversary, in 2022, Mattel collaborated with design magazine PIN-UP and produced a limited-edition art book, Barbie Dreamhouse: An Architectural Survey. This 151-page monograph traces the evolution of dream homes through six examples showing their original furnishings and architectural plans.

What readers won’t see is Barbie herself (or anyone close to her). Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie was released last week and its hyper-pink aesthetic has been sweeping Instagram like a tsunami of strawberry milkshakes since the start of the year. The feminist revulsion towards this doll fades into the background, in favor of an ironic celebration.

The book examines the cultural and architectural forces that have shaped dream homes over the decades, including Victorian style, 1950s modernism, and the granola spirit of back to the land.

Writers, artists and architects explain how barbitecture marked them. “Barbie’s house is infinitely more exciting than Barbie,” writes cultural critic Elvia Wilk. “The structures we fantasize about living in say more about our lives and our dreams than plastic bodies. »

Barbie’s first house, a cardboard ranch that unfolds from a case, is surprisingly masculine, with its 1950s wood paneling and large-check fabric couch. In 1962, is this the only suitable setting for a young single woman on the cusp of her adult life? Yes, if she’s a student, Mr. Burrichter replies, pointing out the pennants of a varsity team and the absence of a kitchen. “It contains all the codes for a student residence room. »

This two-story townhouse features both a modern palette and Victorian touches. Burrichter and Mallett believe the bohemian decor (Tiffany lamps, green plants) is a nod to the singles bars of the era.

This A-frame was built in three sections that can be taken apart and reconfigured. She reminds Burrichter of the homes built by Charles Moore and other progressive architects at Sea Ranch, a housing estate in northern California.

In the 1990s, Barbie became candy pink, dreamy, and “really leaning towards hyper-femininity,” says Kim Culmone, vice president of design at Mattel. Doric columns, Palladian windows and the roof terrace were also common in the big houses springing up like mushrooms in quirky American suburbs.

This lavender Victorian mansion seemed anachronistic when it was launched coinciding with the new millennium, observes Mallett. But it looked like the house depicted in a painting hung in the original 1962 house, as if Barbie had recreated her home environment 38 years later.

If Barbie’s first house had been a film set, there would have been a single big black-and-white camera, like on a 1960s TV series. The 2021 version is reminiscent of the houses that influencers rent to create group content , with naturally lit open areas, where multiple smartphones can record from endless angles.