Winner selected for new, greener Barbie house

One columnist takes issue with the winning design selected for the new Barbie house that was intended to be a greener home:

What Li and Paklar imagined was a series of glass cubes stacked on top of each other with enough space underneath the beach mansion for a car or motorbike to park. Very chic, very elevated, very Le Corbusier. The interiors (pink, of course) look airy, clutter-free and, with 4,881 square feet of living space, lonely for a single person. There are bamboo floors and a roof garden with natural irrigation. But even those tiny eco-design gestures cannot offset the fact that Barbie gets to hog a massive house on three acres of pristine West Coast beach. Sorry, girlfriend!

America has been damned by the tyranny of the excessively large house. Check the explosion of square footage over the last half century of the private home, from the modest two-storey of Leave it to Beaver to the sprawling residential heaps featured on The O.C. Barbie once cavorted through her own shopping-mall playset. It was just something she had to have, like a purse.

The problem with the McMansion scenario? It’s unaffordable and unsustainable. But, like Barbie’s impossibly small waist, it’s a dream that everybody is conditioned to want…

Li and Paklar might have been tempted to design a compact, art-filled studio in the heart of Manhattan for Barbie. They might have edited her massive wardrobe down to a few edgy, well-designed outfits and given her a pair of workboots to wear on construction sites. If they had, my bet is they wouldn’t have won the design competition. In America, what suits Harvard-educated architects doesn’t really count. You have to think big, hungry thoughts to get ahead. Just like Barbie.

It sounds like this columnist thinks that McMansions can’t really be green.The fact that the home is large and has a large lot is simply too much to overcome.

Did anyone really think that Mattel would select something small, non-luxurious, or small? Perhaps the selection of this design suggests Americans want green and luxury to come together and don’t want to sacrifice much in order to be green. Therefore, acquiring smaller homes is driven more by economic trouble (people can’t access the actually homes they would want) or individualistic choices (wanting to declutter, simplify, improve, etc.) rather than the idea of sacrifice or helping the world.

The actual home design is more modern than I would have expected. How about a discussion about Barbie’s aesthetic tastes in homes?

Barbie needs a “green dream home”

The socialization process that children go through includes messages and ideas that they get from the toys that they play with. So if we want future adults to live in greener homes, then perhaps it will be Barbie who leads the way:

With an exciting new career in architecture, Barbie naturally needs stylish new digs which is why Mattel has teamed up with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to launch the Architect Barbie Dream House Design Competition…

And here are Barbie’s guidelines, in her own words:

My Dream House should reflect the best sustainable design principles and also be a stylish space that I can live in comfortably. A sleek, smart home office is important for any doll…

I love to entertain so I need living and dining areas that are open and connected allowing for mingling and easy entertaining from one room to the other…

And the list of guidelines goes on.

This is an interesting list: it starts with “sustainable design principles” but then the rest of the list expands on the concept of “stylish space.” So Barbie might want a greener home but this home is still going to have to be pretty large to accommodate all of her stuff. The home may be designed a little better but it still sounds like it will be an ode to consumption since she is a “fashionista,” has at least three cars, and needs a big yard. Can Barbie live in a greener McMansion (not that architects could call it that)?

It would be interesting to see what type of architects would openly submit designs for this.

On “shooting creatives” and “winning eventually”

Copyright law is everywhere these days, even in the popular (i.e., non-specialized) press.  And it’s in the pop press where things get interesting:  all of the legal niceties that IP legal specialists drone at each other quickly get reduced to bracing, real-world takeaways.

Take this recent piece by Roger Moore, a movie critic for the Orlando Sentinel, who makes some unintentionally wonderful arguments for copyright reform:

Orlando attorney John Rizvi of Gold & Rizvi, P.A., specializes in [intellectual property] law, and he spends part of his time shooting down what creative people think they know about copyright and that nebulous concept known as “fair use.”

Stop right there.  Did he say “shooting down” and “what creative people think” in the same sentence?  This already sounds like promoting science and the useful arts to me.

Sigh.  What else?

Moore also quotes from Marshall Leaffer, a “Distinguished Scholar in Intellectual Property Law at Indiana University and the author of ‘Understanding Copyright Law'”:

Leaffer cited as an example [of fair use in action] a conceptual artist who made and sold photographs of Barbie dolls posed in provocative ways. He was just doing a parody, right? He figured he’d be safe.

“Mattel sued him,” Leaffer said, referring to the doll’s maker. “He won. Eventually. But it cost him a lot of money.”

Let me reemphasize what Leaffer skips right past.  The artist won. Using Barbie was a fair use.  But the artist only won “eventually”.  And “it cost him a lot of money”.

What can we take away from Moore’s article?  I humbly submit we should reform the monstrocity that is U.S. copyright law.  Why?

  1. We need to stop shooting down creative people.
  2. We need to make sure that artists acting well within their rights simply win, not “eventually” and after years of financially ruinous litigation.