As a city at the forefront of architectural, artistic and scientific innovation, Barcelona has fuelled creativity and inspired young minds for generations. This March, it was named the European Capital of Innovation and was awarded the first-ever iCapital Award from the European Commission for its dedication to introducing new technology to benefit its citizens and make the city more accessible.
Innovation is about more than just technology though, and in Barcelona you’ll find innovation and creativity everywhere, from art, architecture and cuisine to science and industry. For a glimpse into the city’s remarkably innovative history, here’s just a sample of things to do and see while on an educational tour of brilliant Barcelona.
Some of the most influential and innovative artists in the world hail from Spain–Picasso, Dalí, Goya, Miró and Velazquez, to name a few. Check out the Museu Picasso and see how he challenged our perceptions by experimenting with various theories, techniques and ideas. The permanent collection at the museum includes artwork from Picasso’s early years and showcases more than 3,800 pieces spread across five adjoining palaces. The Museu d’Art Contemporani is also worth a visit; this massive, minimalist edifice displays modern and experimental art that ranges from the brilliant to the bizarre. Be sure to take a stroll down Las Ramblas, the 1.2-kilometre boulevard that features, among other cultural landmarks, a mosaic by Joan Miró, another internationally-acclaimed innovator.
Decades before Canadian architect Frank Gehry adorned the Spanish city of Bilbao with his “melting” titanium Guggenheim Museum, Antoni Gaudí was knocking down architectural preconceptions by building structures of curved, flowing, drooping and soaring forms. His work was so unorthodox that it still stands as a collective symbol of Barcelona almost 90 years after his death. Gaudí was inspired by natural, organic forms and recreated them in twisted iron and curved stones to create unorthodox versions of conventional structures: churches, houses, fountains and parks. His work can be found all over the city.
The most popular attraction in Barcelona is Gaudí’s La Sagrada Família, a huge basilica started in 1882 that is (believe it or not) still under construction. You’ll need half a day for Parque Güell, a whimsical park with interesting sculptures, funky buildings, playful benches and houses (Gaudi actually lived in one of them, and it’s open to the public!). In the park you’ll see how the artist used tile mosaics to add vibrant, Catalan colours to his designs. A terrace supported by bizarre stone pillars that resemble palm trees affords great views of the city. Casa Batlló, one of the private homes Gaudí built on commission, is also worth a visit. It has a façade that looks like a pile of bones and skulls but on closer inspection, these bleached, curved exterior features are actually balconies and their supports.
If you’ve never heard of “molecular gastronomy,” a term coined by Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti and French chemist Hervé This, it’s the newest food science movement. Though some practitioners prefer calling it “culinary physics” or “experimental cuisine,” it remains a modern style that involves playing with the chemical and physical transformations that occur at the molecular level when food is cooked.
Take part in a molecular gastronomy workshop in Barcelona and you’ll see food combinations you’ve never heard of, in shapes and forms that challenge your understanding of the natural world. Imagine beets served like pink soap suds, drinks in the shape of gelatinous eggs, lasagna noodles made of chocolate or microwave yogurt. Molecular gastronomy relies more on tools from the lab and is an incredibly innovative way of cooking.
Science & Industry
Spain is a world leader in technology and renewable energy, and its modern infrastructures—like the high-speed rail network—are globally recognized and praised. To develop your own innovative ideas, stop by the Museum of Ideas & Inventions. The aim of the Museum is to promote awareness and encourage visitors to think about the issues being put forward. The exhibits not only display inventions; they also invite visitors to actively participate and come up with their own creative solutions.
There are three sections in the Museum and each focuses on a different aspect of invention and creativity. The “Limitless Society” room is dedicated to ideas that have been conceived by brand names, technological centres and everyday people; the “Reflectionarium” reminds visitors that every person is capable of innovative thinking and problem solving; and the “Corner of the Absurd” highlights inventions that have been created to provoke a smile or laughter. A visit to this Museum could mean the next big invention will be yours!
This cultural capital will encourage students and educators to explore the notion that not everything has been invented yet. Inspire creative thinking and the skills to develop the next ground-breaking idea on EF’s Leadership & Innovation Summit in Barcelona!