Creating a Multiple Intelligences Landscape


TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The built environment should facilitate a meaningful experience for a user by intellectually engaging their perceptual and cognitive abilities. In 1983, Howard Gardner published his cognitive theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner theorizes that human intelligence is not one single capacity, but is comprised of multiple capacities. Many teachers use the multiple intelligences theory as a tool to reach a larger number of students by engaging their unique learning styles. The theory of multiple intelligences is one way to interpret how an individual might understand, perceive or experience their surroundings. I used Gardner's theory as a framework to develop design criteria that can be used by designers to create landscapes or environments that engage people in an intellectual and meaningful way. By designing a site that will engage different individuals' unique methods of understanding, a landscape architect can create landscapes that will capture attention and promote a unique personal experience through the creation of sense of place. I believe that this in turn can also be used as a tool for articulating design ideas and analyzing current landscapes.

My research begins with a review of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's theory of flow and what is needed to achieve this playful state. The answer is to engage a user with a challenge. This led me to Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. After a review of his work, I used his theory to analyze several case study landscapes. Based on this research, I developed a set of preliminary design criteria that can be used as an outline or a starting point for designers.

I chose the Joe L. Evins Appalachian Center for Crafts (ACC) in Smithville, Tennessee as my site for beginning my understanding of the range of uses that the multiple intelligences possess within a landscape. The ACC is a visual arts school whose mission is to preserve and educate people about the culture and techniques of Appalachian crafts. The mediums that are taught are clay, glass, metal, fibers, and wood. My design exploration lead me to concluded that the outcome of a multiple intelligences landscape will be shaped by several factors: the personal strengths and weaknesses within the multiple intelligences of the designer, the sites will determine which intelligences should be designed for, and that the design process should be a collaborative effort. Therefore, the design solution produced is not the strength of this research project, but rather the development, process, and conclusions that reveal a strong case for the inclusion of engaging users' intellectually.



Flow theory, Craft, Sense of place, Experience, Play, Howard Gardner