Barbara Millicent Roberts, originally from the small—and fictional—town of Willows, Wisconsin, was introduced to the world in 1959. Better known by her nickname, Barbie, after graduating from Willows High School, one of the greatest pop icons of all time set off to live her own independent life in 1962. The young blonde doll, created by the American toy company Mattel, was destined to live forever at age 19. In 1962, she got a home of her own when the original Barbie Dreamhouse debuted.
In the book Barbie Dreamhouse: An Architectural Survey, by Mattel Creations, it’s possible to see a snapshot of the original house, made entirely of cardboard, with yellow walls, a single bed, and college pennants as decoration. From the very beginning, Barbie was determined to live independently, and her home reflected her desire for freedom. Her pursuit of an independent life is even more noteworthy when considered in the context of her time.
After that first foray into the world of interior design, where the color pink was used only as an occasional accent, a string of increasingly sophisticated flats and mansions followed. In 1974, Mattel launched the Barbie Townhouse, which recalled Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-Ino with its open-plan modular construction model. It wasn’t until 1990, however, that the image most of us have in our heads of Barbie’s home—an elaborate construction bathed entirely in pink and fuchsia, with furniture to match—became a reality with the debut of the Magical Mansion. But what if, instead of merely providing inspiration for Barbie’s home, Le Corbusier himself had been asked to design her home? What would he have produced for his client? And what if that task had fallen instead to Santiago Calatrava? Or perhaps to Lina Bo Bardi? Fortunately, the artificial intelligence software Stable Diffusion allows us to play with these pipe dreams and turn those fantasies into reality.