Rosan Bosch

Educational space designer 

"Physical spaces should be as diverse as the people who inhabit them"

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It used to bother me a lot that my children wouldn't want to draw or read when they got home. They talked about school as something negative and boring. That was really when I started to want to change things. I went to see my children's teacher and was told, "Well, I'd really like to change that, but I can't. I have 30 children, we're in the classroom alone and my problem is that, although I'd like to do some things differently, in a learning environment, when some students are talking, it distracts the others. And that's why we have to do more or less the same thing at the same time. There will always be some children who are bored". I thought that I could use my skills as a designer and artist to help them. I could change the physical environment of the classroom to be able to work with the children in a much more different way. That was the beginning. I wanted to save to my children, to help them hold on to their desire to explore.

Creativity is not something that we need to promote because it is something we already have. You're born with creativity, every child is born with creativity, it's not just artists who are creative, everyone is creative. What happens is that school dampens this creativity. It's a matter of holding on to this creativity, of stimulating and helping it to grow and to create opportunities within a school's physical environment, it's organization and its social context. Students should be stimulated and also feel like they're allowed to be creative.

Creativity comes from something very basic, of having the possibility of acting on your own desires, curiosity and motivation, which comes from inside. The problem is that, if we create classrooms as usage defined spaces, the teachers and children who use those classrooms will be controlled by them. In effect, the classroom will control the children. They won't be able to move around freely, go where they want or work on what interests them, like drawing while the teacher is talking, for example. What we do with design is, instead of thinking about it as a way to control a space, we focus on creating learning landscapes. And those landscapes of learning are built from accepting that each of us is different and we need different physical situations: different colors and different materials, depending on different scenarios we need to work.

"Motivation is the most powerful force we all have within"

As a child, your main teacher is the adult that stands at the front of the class. However, you also learn from your classmates and your physical environment, as this enables you to discover under what circumstances you learn best. Nowadays we think that the most important thing children learn at school is how to learn. We base our assumption on the notion that 65% of primary school children will have a job when they leave school, which is no longer the case. Therefore, we're aware that one thing children must learn at school is to learn how to learn. And to do that, they need to discover: How do I work? How do I concentrate? When I have to concentrate very hard, how do I do it? If I have to collaborate with you on a project, what sort of physical environment do we need to create the best working conditions?, etc. From this perspective, the physical environment helps both students and teachers learn how to learn.

It is about diversity and how to configure it. I believe it's very easy. If we create environments that are designed with diversity in mind, these physical spaces communicate with us. Because the truth is that a uniform environment does not allow for diversity. There will always be someone who has to keep quiet so as not to distract others. With more diverse environments, schools also have to change the way they organize their schedules. Schools that have been designed as learning landscapes will not be successful if we continue to use them in the same way as traditional schools. The system won't work if a teacher has to monitor the individual activities of 30 pupils. We need to think about how to best allocate the time a teacher spends with students. And that is where context comes in: the word “autonomy”, independence, work by projects, work by challenges. Above all, traditional schools seek to control how children physically move around. In the future, what we want is for these children to grow into adults who know very well when to remain seated and when to move around. We want them to learn how to handle independent learning. If we don't give children a bit of independence now, how are they going to learn how to become independent adults?

Rosan Bosch is the Director of the Rosan Bosch architecture studio and an interior designer. She has created innovative spaces in schools in order to improve learning environments. She has also written books such as "Designing for a better world starts at school" and has participated in similar projects in hospitals and libraries.