Citizens as Customers: A Model for Sustainable Quality of Life

11.04.2012, 16:14
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The approach to research of the Citizens as Customers group is quite different from that of the other studios. It focuses a lot on both teamwork and individual projectsStudent Matiss Groskaufmanis describes the studio’s methodology, followed by the descriptions of his and other students’ projects.  

Matiss Groskaufmanis:

“The aim of the Citizens as Customers studio is to examine and reinvent the ‘microrayon’ — not as a product (an apartment block or a master plan), but as an outcome for sustainable quality of the customer’s life. Originally a Soviet concept for accommodating working classes on a large scale, today “the microrayon” has a different meaning. We research this meaning from a customer-centric perspective, using an activity cycle methodology. The lifespan of the customer’s relationship to the ‘microrayon’ is mapped out in a continuous loop — from planning and purchasing an apartment to everyday life and maintenance, followed by renovation and an eventual move to another home. Each of these phases is studied in detail in order to find ‘value gaps’ — things, procedures and services that are done poorly, unreasonably costly, ineffectively, or not done at all. Distilled ‘value gaps’ are then consolidated into main points of inefficiencies of the system — deteriorating quality of housing stock, devalued concept of affordability, lack of real choice, absence of long term planning and other conditions that are driving costs and posing not-so-far-in-the-future threats not only for the customer but also the society and the state. Now, the results of the customer activity cycle mapping are used towards developing a model for sustainable quality of life where housing is only a part.

As for my research project, after collectively mapping out the constellation of business, politics, history and values that surround the ‘microrayon’, I finished my mid-term presentation by questioning to what extent unaffordable mortgages, along with a certain set of values, are limiting the residential mobility of customers. As a collective exercise, my research is part of the studio’s aim to question (and possibly plot an assassination of) the occurring inertia of the Soviet ‘microrayon’ that is still regarded as the ultimate model of life for most of the Russian urban population”.

Anastassia Sheveleva: 

“My part of the studio project was concentrated on the daily life of a microrayon’s residents. How do people create, manipulate, and re-appropriate microrayon spaces in order for them to meet people’s needs? What do people do in a microrayon on a daily basis and how do these activities relate to one another spatially? Basically, it’s an ongoing investigation on the ways in which a microrayon’s residents operate; it examines how the territory of a microrayon shapes people’s everyday lives and, in its turn, how everyday life shapes the territory”.

Alexander Novikov:

“I researched the planning stage of the microrayon cycle and found two big value gaps. The first value gap is a big group of gaps related to government (changes in legislation; inefficient regulatory environment; unpredictable delays in work of local administration authorities; bribes). The second value gap is the absence of the customer on the planning stage.

So, in my research project, I am trying to imagine a microrayon as a system of pre-approved planning decisions. The main idea is to skip gaps related to government and allow citizens become customers”.

Natalia Chamayeva:

“The topic of my research is part of a bigger work our studio has been doing as a group. Within this, I’m particularly interested in identifying alternatives for the existing model of mass housing in Moscow, as well as emerging trends in citizens’ behaviour and future value drivers”.