From mountaintop to campfire: the 6 design principles of Rosan Bosch Studios

Rosan Bosch Studios have been at the cutting edge of innovative learning space design for many years. And like all leading practitioners, Bosch has a way of making the complex simple, and has created a new language within which this design can be framed.

She bases her design on 6 principles: 6 spaces students move through in any one day. However, rather than seeing space based on its traditional function (classroom, break out space and so on), Bosch uses a more primal taxonomy. It’s a taxonomy that resonates with all of us, as it speaks profoundly to our human nature.

Mountaintop spaces support traditional, one-way modes of instruction such as speeches and lectures.  These should not be overlooked: as a way of getting the important stuff across to us, the lecture theatre still has its place. Let’s not remove these spaces entirely from schools in a rush to promote individualised, guided learning.

Cave spaces promote individual learning. They are quiet spaces that students and teachers can retreat to in order to be with their thoughts. However, they are not entirely separate: those who use them still feel connected to their environment and those around them. Examples include sound proofed pods and seating which cancels a large amount of ambient noise.

Campfire spaces promote dialogue, and are therefore often noisy and animated. The key here is to ensure that anyone in this space feels able to speak openly and freely. Traditional classrooms are usually the spaces we would most likely see this happening, but we must be mindful of how furniture is arranged. The clue is in the name: campfires are circular, so everyone can see everyone else. Desks in rows do not promote campfire dialogue.

Watering hole spaces are those where people interact in a more casual fashion, catching up with one another and sharing informal dialogue. They are also critical for creativity and innovation, which is why Steve Jobs was particular about where the toilets were situated in Pixar’s offices. These spaces include corridors and cafes, which is why having large circulation and social spaces is important in school design.

Hands on spaces are those where children can learn by doing. They include art rooms, science labs, and music studios.

Movement spaces support us learning through using our whole bodies. Whether this be sports halls, dance studios or swimming pools, these spaces promote a high level of movement and energy.


It is interesting that, in an increasingly complex world where there is a theory for everything, Rosan Bosch has managed to capture and codify exactly how we have always learned: through listening, reflecting, discussing, and doing. There is a beauty to this simplicity, and one that school designers would do well to take note of.

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  1. Pingback: Some Principles in Designing Learning Spaces – Rosen Bosch | The Learning Renaissance

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