We investigated the contribution of visual imagination to the cognitive mapping of a building when initial exploration was simulated either visually by using a passive video walk-through, or mentally by using verbal guidance. Building layout had repeating elements with either rotational or mirror symmetry. Cognitive mapping of the virtual building, determined using questionnaires and map drawings, was present following verbal guidance but inferior to that following video guidance. Mapping was not affected by the building's structural symmetry. However, notably, it correlated with small-scale mental rotation scores for both video and verbal guidance conditions. There was no difference between males and females. A common factor that may have influenced cognitive mapping was the availability of visual information about the relationships of the building elements, either directly perceived (during the video walk-through) or imagined (during the verbal walk-through and/or during recall). Differences in visual imagination, particularly mental rotation, may thus account for some of the individual variance in cognitive mapping of complex built environments, which is relevant to how designers provide navigation-relevant information.