The Power of Play. An Interview with designer, artist and founder Rosan Bosch.
Is the power of play crucial in the design process? Why or why not?
Play is an integral part of both our designs and design thinking when creating innovative learning environments globally. Humans’ natural-born curiosity forms the basis of the desire to play and is the primary driving force of creative thinking and learning. Through play, we investigate and discover the world. We connect with other people and engage with our surroundings. Play sets the basis for us to develop skills, acquire knowledge, and discover possibilities throughout our lives. And through play, we learn how to interact with each other. Play is fundamental to children’s positive development and their ability to develop the skills they will need in the future. That is why our design solutions encourage play, self-direction and offer choice to motivate and develop creative thinkers who can solve the unknown problems of the future. Such solutions require a holistic design approach that places the learner and their sensory experiences at the center no matter the age or the project.
Is it possible for creativity to exist without play?
Play unfolds through different steps. We call them ‘sequences of play’: curiosity, wonder, exploration, connection, transformation, creation – a five-step positive spiral motivated by our innate ability to comprehend the world around us. Play stimulates our imagination and activates our creativity in many ways. It makes us improvise, which, in turn, inspires new ways of playing and learning. Creativity is learned by being in environments that encourage imaginative play. A space must not only be understood as a place to meet, but a place that can contribute to development, inspire, and allow for diversity in processes and needs. Such areas are built on a foundation of freedom and autonomy: the freedom to choose with whom and where a given challenge is to be explored and solved. To unleash a strong intrinsic motivation, we need inspirational “triggers” - physical surroundings and our relationships with others play a vital role here.
How do you use play in your creative process?
To give form to playful learning environments, we engage the users in playful, democratic, and collaborative workshop activities. Through playful design thinking, we encourage teachers, employees, children and management to envision their dream learning environments which we translate into innovative design solutions. Around the users, we form learning experiences and environments that break patterns in the way they think and act to unleash novel ideas and change behaviour. We stimulate their intrinsic ability to play and connect all their senses in the creative process. As we design playful spaces all over the world, the individual location, atmosphere, and culture is embraced and reflected in the design. Play has become our primary tool to sense, imagine and translate culture, nature and narratives into concepts and designs through a collaborative process.
Has corona made play more important?
In many countries, the pandemic has had catastrophic consequences for equity in education and resulted in thousands of lost school hours for children. In this part of the world, we have been able to adjust to new circumstances and have developed new playful approaches to interaction and learning from a distance. In terms of the limited access to physical encounters and spaces, we experienced a loss in collaborative and sensory learning - ways of stimulating the senses to use our body as we use our mind to comprehend the world. Play is a strategy and tool to sense and discover, and to retrieve knowledge for new contexts and experiences. The isolation increased our awareness towards the need for learning, being and playing as whole human beings.
Is it possible to play too much?
When we play, we learn. We discover unexpected things when we let our curiosity flow, when we collaborate, explore, test and fail. Play is a catalyst for better learning and is a valuable tool for creative processes. Play takes time. In a world full of deadlines and commitments, you need to keep your eye on the prize – but we need to create space and time for play as an integral part of our everyday life and work.
What happens if we forget to play?
Play motivates us to challenge and question the status quo, to develop and to explore. And to become life-long learners. The world is changing rapidly. Play can help us adapt to new, unexpected challenges and change our mindset and behaviour. It is a way of connecting to each other and of creating and challenging social and emotional skills. We are born to play. Many need to learn how to play again.
Could you describe one or two of your projects where play has been essential to the process?
Play is important in all our processes and an indispensable method for collaboration in the studio. We work with architects and engineers all over the world. The pandemic limited physical visits to sites. When developing a new concept design for a school in Lima, Peru, we needed to visualize the location and its possibilities in the process. Using virtual reality during a workshop, we were able to go through the entire space and location and get a very clear visualization of the concept. It was extremely fun and felt like being an avatar in a video game. But this playful activity was a crucial instrument for us to proceed to the next phases of the project without delays.