The Architecture of Barbie’s Dreamhouse

Barbie's Dreamhouse

Barbie, the iconic doll from 1959, is the talk of the summer with the release of her live-action film directed by Greta Gerwig with Margot Robbie as Barbie. For girls and women who have grown up with Barbie, they love her for her fashionable, and fantastic life which all takes place in Barbie’s dreamhouse. Gerwig, who is an Oscar-nominated director for her other female-empowering films, such as Lady Bird (2017) and Little Women (2019), brings Barbie’s pink, plastic, and fantastic world to life in her new film. She takes a deep architectural dive into developing the Barbie Dreamhouse. Since the theoretical trailer release of the film, the Dreamhouse has gained astronomical recognition all over the world, and a real-life Barbie dreamhouse has been built for people to visit.

Margot Robbie Vogue

The original Barbie Dreamhouse was first featured in 1962, three years after Barbie came out as a doll by Ruth Handler. According to reporters Kai Ryssdal and Sarah Lesson from MarketPlace, the dreamhouse was a “single-room, yellow-walled ranch home and it looks like a studio apartment.” However, the dreamhouse has evolved immensely over the past 60 years. The latest dreamhouse came out in 2021, and it has been upgraded to a life-size, three-story home that includes an elevator, pool, and slide. For the 2023 live-action film, Gerwig took inspiration from the dollhouse toys having been a fan of Barbie dolls herself growing up.

Barbie's 1962 Dreamhouse courtesy of House Beautiful
2023 Dreamhouse
2023 Dreamhouse courtesy of House Beautiful

On June 16, 2023, a video was released on YouTube featuring Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig giving an architectural digest of the Barbie dreamhouse in the film. The video begins with Robbie giving a tour of the Barbie Dreamhouse film set. She explains how there are no doors or windows within the home. In addition, the dream houses in Barbie Land are next to one another, so all the Barbies, including Robbie’s character, can see one another from their own bedrooms. Evidence of this is seen in the trailer showing all the Barbies waving to one another saying, “Hi Barbie.” However, Robbie shared how her Barbie doesn’t “walk” downstairs to her pink car. No, instead she floats down to her pink car. The idea behind this melodramatic scene was to satirize how an actual Barbie doll doesn’t walk. Rather, she stands on her tiptoes. A child who plays with Barbie dolls moves themes everywhere on their own. Close detail like this is Gerwig honoring the toy Barbie from 1959.

For the Dreamhouse, pink was the color, tone, and mood of Barbie’s world—naturally.  Gerwig discussed the importance of color, specifically pink, within the Barbie Dreamhouse on YouTube. She mentioned how she incorporated multiple colors and shades of pink throughout the entire house. Gerwig and her team filled the house with plastic and artificial elements and themes of the 1950s in color and style. In the YouTube video, Gerwig said, “It has to be beautiful.” To obtain this perfect, beautiful, and plastic Barbie world Gerwig and her team incorporated artificial items within the Barbie world. She wanted to be expressionistic with artificial items to create Barbie’s perfect world. From a miniature set in the beginning to a life-size film set later on, the set consisted of artificial skies in the background, artificial food in the kitchen, and an artificial pool outside the Dreamhouse with a pink slide.

Barbie Dreamhouse Set
Barbie Dreamhouse film set

On June 28th, 2023, Brain Boucher of ArtNet reported that there is a Malibu real-life Barbie Dreamhouse in Malibu, California, people can rent on Airbnb for a night. The real-life Barbie Dreamhouse has many features such as “a personal cinema, an infinity pool, an outdoor mediation zone, and a roller rink, against a panoramic backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.” Boucher further mentioned that the house was originally “listed on Airbnb in 2019 to mark the Mattel doll’s 60th anniversary.” What makes the Malibu Dreamhouse different from the one in Gerwig’s film is there are rooms designed for both Barbie and Ken.  The Malibu house has Ken as a host and there’s a “masculine hand, even amid the sea of pink that is Barbie’s preferred hue.” Ken’s masculine features in his room consist of an album called Dude Rock, Ken’s signature roller blades (which are in the film), a life-size plastic horse, cowboy hats, cowboy boots, cowboy shirts, a guitar, and an amplifier. The house is open to the public to rent and stay at. The Malibu Barbie Dreamhouse has gained a lot of attention and many visitors. For instance, in early July, it was reported that a celebrity couple, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, had stayed there with their children. Teigen even tried reenacting Robbie’s shot of putting on pink heels in a video for social media.

Malibu's real life Barbie drreamhouse

Barbie has been and will always be iconic for young girls and women. She is a woman full of brains, beauty, and fun, who owns and lives in her own Dreamhouse all by herself. Essentially, Barbie embodies and represents femininity, despite being reinvented through the decades to adapt to femininity.  In Gerwig’s film, she has reinvented Barbie for a newer generation of Barbie lovers. The architectural design of the Barbie Dreamhouse is an example of appealing to a newer generation. Gerwig’s film shifts Barbie from the Dreamhouse style of 1959 into the contemporary style of 2023. The premises of the film focus on how Barbie leaves her perfect life in Barbie Land to make it in the.real world.   Despite the challenges, I have faith in the Barbie I grew to know and love as a young girl will survive the real world just fine.

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