Architecture as a Social Construction

According to Émile Durkheim the »first and fundamental rule« of sociological thought is to »consider social facts as things«. Rather what happens if we flip this perspective and see built things as social facts?

The architectural theory I propose in my Habilitation thesis »Der sinnhafte Aufbau der gebauten Welt« (Suhrkamp, 2015) builds on the sociology of knowledge formulated by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann in their by-now classic work »The Social Construction of Reality« (1966). Berger and Luckmann argue that the social construction of reality follows a dialectical interplay between externalization, objectivation and internalization. They show that the reality in which we live is one that, firstly, emerges as a result of collective action, secondly that we are confronted by this reality as a fact – and thus »thing-like« in a Durkheimian sense – and, thirdly, that we must accept this reality into our subjective consciousness in order to become part of it. While Berger and Luckmann concentrate on examining the immaterial aspects of this process, I aim to show what role »material objectivations« – and buildings in particular – play therein. 

Publication in English: Steets, Silke (2016): Taking Berger and Luckmann to the Realm of Materiality: Architecture as a Social Construction. In: Cultural Sociology 10 (1), 93–108.


Antony, Alexander/ Steets, Silke/ Pfadenhauer, Michaela (2022): Politics of Crisis: Threatening and Defending Journalistic Expertise – A Processual Account. In: Symbolic Interaction 5. Online first.

Knoblauch, Hubert/ Steets, Silke (2022): From the Constitution to the Communicative Construction of Space. In: Christmann, Gabriela B./ Knoblauch, Hubert/ Löw, Martina (eds.) Communicative Constructions and the Refiguration of Spaces. Theoretical Approaches and Empirical Studies. London/New York, Routledge. pp. 19-35.