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The Importance of Social Interaction with Ryan Rosen

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

Welcome to week thirteen of Design Create Inspire! After a Thanksgiving that looked quite different than those of the past, it is finally acceptable to play Christmas music and feel the holiday spirit.

Last week I brought on a special guest, my cousin, Marea Riedler to talk about life as an interior designer. In lieu of Thanksgiving with the family, it was a blessing to talk design with a family member. If you missed out last week, check out the blog and podcast.


This week I am grateful to bring on a world traveler, an extremely intelligent, kind, and passionate individual, Ryan Rosen.

A little bit about Ryan before we begin…

Ryan was born and raised in San Diego, California, grew up playing tennis competitively, sparking his initial interest in international travel. As college approached, Ryan found himself across the country at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts where he discovered his passion for human interaction. During his undergraduate experience, Ryan was blessed to travel abroad in Madrid, London, France, and Venice where he was exposed to the joys and artistic expression of travel photography. After graduation, he spent an additional year abroad in India, volunteering as a digital media and photography instructor at a community center, which led to his discovery and clarification of his passion for generating social interaction, as well as a published memoir. After a series of incredibly unique experiences, Ryan decided that architecture was the answer to pursuing his passion for bringing humans together.

Fast forward three years and Ryan is in his final year at Woodbury University working on his thesis which exclusively focuses on architecture and social interaction. The timing of Ryan’s thesis could not be more ironic, as we are currently in a time where humans are craving social interaction and architecture is being reconfigured to safely enhance these desired interactions.

Ryan’s path to architecture was not linear, rather he found himself initially attracted to the creative elements architecture has to offer without ever fabricating a physical model and having little to no idea how to draw. While he had a developed skill set in photography, his architectural skills were those of a beginner.

Ryan is now in his thesis year, a year that is known to be relatively independent compared to the previous years. Unlike other years, Ryan is attending school remotely like thousands of other students across the nation. While his situation was already unique, as the only masters student in his cohort, Ryan is an individual who is extremely comfortable reaching out to strangers and believes this experience has been a year of growth.

As an architect, I see effects of the pandemic are having a drastic effect on architecture. Clients are re-envisioning their homes to incorporate cohesive work-from-home environments while cities are repurposing their streets to promote safe social interaction.

Ryan’s understanding of how architecture contributes to social interaction is truly remarkable. He states, “I believe social interaction has the ability to develop compassion between people”. We talk about the effects epidemic loneliness has had on society, and how Ryan envisions society to interact once the pandemic is over.

One major element that has been missing from Ryan’s life the past few months is travel. For him, travel is the heart of interaction and is the framework for his passion for social interaction.

Ryan believes designers have a unique power in regards to social interaction. On one side is the beautifully unique opportunity to cultivate social interaction, creating fluid spaces for individuals to gather, connect, and communicate with each other. On the other hand, which is what we encounter too often, is the unfortunate power to prohibit human connection from occurring.

Ryan’s thesis addresses the question, How can architecture facilitate social interaction?

Through conversation, observation, and investigation, Ryan will identify which spatial variables influence, nourish, or prohibit social interaction from occurring. His goal is to catalog those spatial variables and create a toolkit for future designers to use as strategies to retrofit existing spaces, or future buildings and spaces, with the goal of placing social interaction as a necessity.

In reference to the toolkit he hopes to create, Ryan’s focus is to understand the spatial variables that can nourish and guide social interactions. The toolkit will provide designers, developers, and architects the tools too quickly retrofit and renovate current buildings, as well as create future strategies which place social interaction, and circulation, as priorities.

Many individuals do not understand their need for social interaction and it is Ryan's goal to provide space for this connection to occur naturally. As our current state of society is one immensely lacking this face to face connection, a simple change, such as reorienting bench placement in parks has the ability to promote social interaction, giving individuals the ability to choose to engage or disengage. Providing society with the choice to interact with one another has proven to result in more interaction, regardless of the individual classifying themselves as introverted or extroverted.

Another Podcast called The Happiness Lab has an incredible episode called Mistakenly Seeking Solitude (Season 1: Episode 4). In this episode, Laurie Santos talks about the importance of talking to strangers even if you classify yourself as an introvert. Sometimes it’s the littlest connections that can brighten our day.

“How can we create a more friendly society?” is Ryan’s motto, a mindset that was influenced by a trip to a museum in Tokyo at the age of 17. This interactive exhibit encouraged him to take a flower from the museum, walk the streets of Tokyo, and give the flower to a stranger. It was through this experience that sparked excitement in Ryan, instilling a goal to play a role in people getting along with one another.

Ryan’s description of his thesis is incredible. I invite you to listen to the podcast to hear his full vision.

When Ryan is not working making the world a better place through his incredible thesis, he is an avid slackliner, handstand guru, and recently, a surfer, followed by a nice meal at Fish 101, what he says is the best restaurant in the world. He also loves backgammon and invites all to join his movement, @backyard_backgammon_club_1.

To gain a better understanding of who Ryan is as a person, as well as to see his long term project, HOOPS X BORDERS, an incredible series of photographs of basketball courts around the world, check out his website, or connect with him on Instagram, @ryan_rosen.

As the cherry on top of an incredibly impressive human, Ryan’s photo journal of his work in India, From Within a Community: Candid Reflections into my time Teaching in Rajasthan, is available on Amazon.

Thank you Ryan for joining me this week on Design Create Inspire to talk about the importance of social interaction. Additionally, thank you for tuning this week and I hope you gained value from this week's episode!

See you next week!

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