The timing is a bit awkward for Mattel and the American Institute of Architects, or perhaps appropriate – many in the field are frustrated by the lack of employment during this economic downturn. But Barbie still smiles, as she always does.

In conjunction with the release of this curious new designer-themed doll, the AIA is also hosting a Dream House competition – in addition to the pink prop miniature home included with purchase.

As the professional-variety Barbies do, this one comes with other tools of the trade, including a set of blueprints and a hardhat plus the ever-popular thick black glasses anyone in the industry should be familiar with.

High heels may be a bit tough when out surveying a site, however, and some of the Dream Home criteria seem overly fabulous for this post-housing-boom, but perhaps this is all a bit too cynical an analysis for a children’s toy.

The University of Buffalo has an interesting take on how the conversation around women in architecture has changed since Architect Barbie was released. Here’s a snippet – go read the rest at their website.

“Although Architect Barbie won Mattel’s 2002 competition for the next career in its “Barbie I Can Be…” series, the company declined, at that time, to produce the doll. In 2010, after a long campaign on the part of Stratigakos and Hayes McAlonie, Mattel agreed to see the project through and asked the pair to join the design team.”

“In 2011, the two introduced 400 girls to what architects do through an AIA-Mattel workshop in New Orleans that featured the work of past and present women architects, and an exercise to redesign Barbie’s Dream House.”

“‘At no point during the workshops did I hear any girl question her spatial skills or the appropriateness of architecture for women. And that, precisely, is where Barbie’s power lies,’ said Stratigakos in a 2011 article for Places Journal. ‘The fact is that Barbie appeals to little girls like no other toy. They are proprietary about her — they know the doll is just for them. And whatever Barbie does, she brings it into the sphere of women. She has the power to make things seem natural to little girls.'”