Views: Patrick Stremler about “The Real Social Network”

Our world is perceptibly changing. Climate and mobility change, housing crisis, inequality, segregation, anonymity, digitisation, biodiversity loss and pandemic: The importance of urban health awakens our longing for cities with a better quality of life and a more human scale.
Design can play a huge role in tackling these challenges, but how do we imagine the world to be? How do we want to live? What can architects do to prevent cities from becoming inhospitable?
The good news is, the tools are already there. If we manage to sensibly combine the achievements of the present, the intelligent network of people and things and the digitisation of planning and construction, we are equipped for a future worth living.

Picture: Kleineschholz Quarter, Freiburg

Challenges for a future worth living

Today, the notion of social networks is taken hostage as a misleading digital analogy of real life. Our social network is by far not limited to communication across digital interfaces.

Despite the astonishing similarity, the real social network needs urgent reanimation. Peoples life takes place in between and inside the built environment and creates important side effects such as social security and multi layered communication. Industries are trying hard to build virtual networks that meet human requirements, satisfy human needs and content people while at the same time trying to make this construct economically exploitable. They are leaving the physical environment behind.

Why do we not do this with real life? Can we use this analogy of the virtual and the real, physical social network to alter the way we live and interact with each other? This shall not be understood as turning away from the path towards digitalisation, but as using these positive aspects to translate them back to our social life.

If the creation of something new, the interdisciplinary, the integral, a service, an intellectual property and technical skills are valued, if the physical social network is working well, the performance of the individual can again be valued. Everyone can find a place and the appreciation of people among each other can be rediscovered. This can lead to satisfaction and socially healthy cities.

The award-winning residential complex in Wiesen Süd, Vienna (photo: © Bruno Klomfar)

The qualities of the ideal city

Manageable neighbourhoods of the Metzgergrün Quarter, Freistadt

Finally we will find out, that these qualities are not far away from what we already know; the ideals of the traditional European city, the traditional Arab city and many more. These role models can be reduced to abstract networks of social interaction and spaces with different levels of privacy.

These ideals can be implemented both in new constructions as well as in the reconstruction of existing cityscapes. We need to reshape our urban fabric into a more sustainable, more inclusive and healthier environment whilst celebrating the culture, the heritage and the beauty that is already there.


Patrick Stremler
© Dietrich | Untertrifaller