Architects design and organize spaces; without space, there is no architecture. So it goes without saying, therefore, that spatial intelligence is of high importance to architects. Luckily for us, spatial intelligence is not something you’re inherently gifted at or just “born with,” it’s something that can be trained and improved through practice. More practice means more advancement, so why not make it enjoyable and easy—easy enough even to do in your everyday life? From drawing to speaking to engaging in play, here are 9 everyday activities to improve your spatial intelligence.
1. Using Spatial Vocabulary
Some studies indicate that exposing children to a wide variety of spatial vocabulary increases their spatial intelligence. Instead of using “here” or “there” in your everyday language, try being more specific in your spatial descriptions, such as “on the top shelf of the cupboard to the right,” or “the third to the left behind the box”. It will make you visualize the spaces yourself in order to describe it to others, an essential component to increasing your spatial intelligence.
2. Playing Chess
Thinking a few steps ahead is always a good strategy when playing chess. However, in order to do this, you must visualize the changing composition of the board, step by step, without moving a single chess piece. Generating and retaining multiple spatial combinations in your mind at once takes a lot of practice, but is a great skill when needing to compare several options.
3. Playing with LEGO
Think “spatial exploration” and you’ll probably also think “LEGO.” No fun activity is more spatially educational than actually holding modular elements in your hands and coming up with creative ways of putting them together. These days, if you come up with a spatial combination that is interesting enough, it could even be put into production for others to spatially challenge themselves.
4. Use Memory Palaces
Many people argue that space and memory are essentially connected, and memory palaces certainly support that argument. By mentally walking through a series of spaces, such as the rooms in your apartment, you link objects, numbers, names or any list of things you need to remember to the individual spaces. It’s a fun way to remember anything from phone numbers to today’s grocery list, and it trains you to retrieve and recount spatial knowledge.
5. Play Video Games
Navigating through a video or computer game is often used as one of the primary examples of how to train one’s spatial intelligence. One recently released game was even designed specifically to test spatial perception; or, seeing as we are specifically interested in the discipline of architecture, why not try a virtual parallel to LEGO, such Minecraft? Active members already have a long list of Minecraft spatial wonders, but the unrestricted world allows you to experiment beyond our rules of physics to define and transform your own spatial creations.
6. Fly a Drone
If you’re tired of sitting in front of a computer, flying a drone is a perfect alternative to playing a video game. Steering a flying object through space with just the use of a few joysticks is harder than it sounds. The direction in which the drone is flying is constantly changing, forcing one to simultaneously steer and track the drone’s rotation in order to correctly orient it. It’s a mental rotation test in real time.
7. Create a Mental Map of Your City
Google Maps and other GPS systems that are so easily accessibly on-the-go have limited our abilities to create our own mental maps. Try resisting the urge to plan your route through an app the next time you have an outing, and use your own knowledge of your city or local area to construct your own routes.
8. Solve Puzzles
Alternatively, if you can’t stay away from your phone, try downloading brain testing apps that are designed to improve your spatial reasoning, such as Lumosity. If you can get your hands away from your phone and replaced with something else for a while, try solving a Rubik's Cube. Puzzles, both physical and virtual, can be excellent training for your spatial intelligence.
Finally, as architects, we cannot leave out sketching. We all love doodling, so why not get some learning out of it? Try drawing three-dimensional geometry from a variety of angles, perspective exercises, funky mazes for your friends to solve, a memorized plan of your own apartment, or imaginary spaces. The more you practice, the better you become, but consistency is key. That’s why is so important that you have fun doing it.
- Dewar, Gwen. “Spatial Intelligence in Children: Why Training Matters,” 2011-2016.
- Lohman, David F. “Spatial Ability and G,” July 8, 1993.