On The Road: A corner of the Catalan capital where absurdity meets innovation


I bumped umbrellas with bedraggled tourists funnelling through the soggy streets on my way to the Museum of Ideas and Inventions (mibamuseum.com). This is one of Barcelona's newest and quirkiest museums, the perfect place to escape the deluge, and I've been longing to go for ages. (Not least because I'd heard about the fantastic tube-slide which swirls down to the basement galleries. Sadly, it was closed during my visit.)

The museum shop at the entrance sells some of the inventions featured in the collection; given the weather, my eyes were immediately drawn to a pair of hot pink umbrella shoes. Next to the entrance, undecided punters can look through a periscope at the main galleries on the floor below before they cough up the entrance fee.

Downstairs, the main exhibits are arranged by theme. First up is a range of very different inventions which have been patented and manufactured: among them is the "Clocky", an alarm clock that runs away when the alarm sounds, and the "Lifestraw", a drinking tube which can filter out 90 per cent of impurities and is already in use in developing countries. The most entertaining exhibits are in the Corner of the Absurd: these include a chair adapted to insert suppositories; the Mop Star, which combines mop and wireless microphone; and the Afterhours, a mobile phone attachment that reads alcohol levels and blocks telephone numbers so that you can't drunk-dial an old boyfriend. One of my favourites was the fluorescent dog food, which makes it easier to pick up dog poo in the dark.

The Museum of Ideas and Inventions is the brainchild of Pep Torres, a Catalan inventor and media personality, who hopes to create an environment which nurtures emerging talent. He practises what he preaches: there's a corner for kids aged five to 12 to sketch out their inventions. The best are not only patented, but manufactured.

As I left, plunging into the puddles, my head was full of new ideas: a pair of telescopic wellies (ankle-, knee-, and thigh-height depending on puddle depth), even a Pac-An-Arc, an inflatable boat that you can put in your pocket. Patents are pending ....

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