Studio Citizens as Customers: A Radical Rethinking of Microrayons

30.01.2012, 15:44
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Studio Citizens as Customers: Director David Erixon, International Coordinator Anastassia Smirnova and Supervisor Kuba Snopek share their vision of methodology and inspiration for research.


What is the main goal of the Citizens as Customers studio?

David Erixon: To create a new, sustainable model for low-cost housing in Moscow.

Anastassia Smirnova: Our main goal is to investigate the phenomena of the Soviet microrayon as a whole — from cultural, political, technical and economic perspective. We want to research the existing patterns of microrayon modernisation and critically assess them. Besides, we are planning to create an open data source out of the material we collect — something that has never been done before. Besides, we will try to detect some «airways» for radical rethinking of the microrayon as a living organism and propose new realistic guidelines for its modernisation (rather than concrete solutions).

Kuba Snopek: For me, the main goal of the studio is to challenge what I understand as the most radical example of modernist architecture — the microrayon. Staying with the same technology of production of identical houses in the contemporary world looks outdated. It seems that the mentality of the industrial era that produced the microrayon is gone already — but the microrayon is still being produced.


What are the principles of the studio’s organization that are most important to you personnally? Why were they chosen?

David Erixon: Co-operacy, personal responsibility and courage to step outside the current patterns of knowing. Why are these so important? Well… 1) It’s such a vast and complicated area that no person alone can solve it (i.e. we need to cooperate); 2) We need to take personal responsibility for how we add to the joint intelligence and outcome of the studio work; 3) We are trying to create something new and NOTHING NEW comes out of the same patterns of thinking.

Anastassia Smirnova: We have designed a very fluid process of individual projects that blend into complex collective work. We use constant shifts of perspective — back and forth between more theoretical knowledge and very concrete reality probes. The idea is to keep a very complex yet structured dynamics in the group,  and not to get stuck with just one line of thought.

Kuba Snopek: The work in the studio is based both on individual research (each student researcher is responsible for their own part) and group work (sharing the knowledge with each other during the working sessions and mini-lectures). Students come from different backgrounds, and they support each other with their distinct skills and approaches.


What is the methodology of research chosen by the studio, and what makes it effective?

David Erixon: Our model is based on four steps. The first step: Framing the questions and case for change. Step two: Find out what we already know. Step three: Through questing go into the unknown. Step four: Find new patterns of data/information/knowledge that inject a new worldview on our initial questions.  In order to take us through all these steps we are using a variety of traditional and more progressive research methodologies — from desk research (data, literature, etc) to field trips, creative approaches and customer focused models (such as Customer Activity Cycles).

Anastassia Smirnova: In our studio we use two major methods — customer focus methodology that has been previously used mostly in the development of successfull and innovative business strategies; and the methodology of contextual urban studies, more common for European architectural practice and education. Both methods are interwoven in a very experimental way. I see our studio as a lab — both in terms of the content and format of research.

Kuba Snopek: The methodology of research which is closest to me, and which I stand for, is trying not only to present facts, but to tell an interesting story. The story has to have its script and a specific narration based on words and images. This type of research is typical for all contemporary architectural offices.


What final outcomes from the studio’s work do you expect?

David Erixon: Inspiring visions and solutions to our challenge that leads to a much more sustainable future for everyone in the eco-system (citizens, society, builders, land-owners, lenders, and so on).

Kuba Snopek: I am really curious to see the final product: an exhibition about the past and the future of the microrayon. I hope to see, on the one hand, some new findings and knowledge about the topic. On the other hand, a variety of different ways of presentation — drawings, videos, etc.

Anastassia Smirnova: I am looking forward to structuring the existing knowledge. Learning from forgotten microrayon concepts. New sources of energy for modernisation. Initiate change in the way people see microrayons.