Étudiante-chercheure étoile Décembre 2012

Frederika Eilers

Doctoral student in architecture
McGill University

Award-winning publication: Barbie versus Modulor: Ideal Bodies, Buildings, and Typical Users

Published in: Girlhood Studies (Berghahn Journals)


"Engaging a cross-disciplinary approach, this comparative analysis shows how two disparate icons, Barbie and Modulor, are similar. The former is an often criticized symbol of girl culture, beauty, and consumerism. The latter is a drawing of a man that summarizes the dimensional system of Le Corbusier, one of the world's most influential architects, and that subsequently became a symbol of modern architecture. Divided into three parts – idealized bodies, their spaces, and how typical users are excluded – this nuanced interpretation explores the intersections of architecture, feminism, embodiment, and ableism. I show how Barbie and Modulor inspire homes that exclude typical users, like families and wheelchair users."

Frederika Eilers' research provides a new critical lens through which to analyze modern artifacts. The paper argues that architects and designers need to rethink building standards based on ideals, which do not reflect the range of average people. Similarly in the world of toys, where anything can happen, the designers still exclude needs of others such as Barbie's friend in a wheelchair. How will this toy shape a generation of future women architects who grow up playing with the Dream House which promotes ableism? Toys play an integral part of socialization in childhood; and, by closely researching a specific toy — the Dream House, we learn what the artifact communicates to girls about their future roles.