Science as art in the Barcelona Metro
Striking mural commemorating Leonardo da Vinci brings a touch of inspiration to the daily commute
“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” So said Leonardo da Vinci over 500 years ago. Today, and for the next three months, commuters, tourists and other travellers on the Barcelona Metro can experience something of that pleasure as they hurry or stroll through the Ciutadella | Vila Olímpica station, thanks to an art–science initiative of the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB).
The station walls have been transformed by a mural that depicts human biology in all its colourful glory, spanning the scale from macro to micro. The research carried out at EMBL Barcelona – on tissue and organ development – sits somewhere in the middle of this scale, and is represented by captivating images produced at the Mesoscopic Imaging Facility by the Trivedi and Sharpe groups.
A glimpse of art and science
Carla Manzanas, Liaison Officer at EMBL Barcelona, explains the background to the exhibition: “This year marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, and the institutes in the PRBB wanted to do something to commemorate this – to somehow bring together the scientific and artistic parts of da Vinci’s work with what we do here.”
“Just a sentence and an image glimpsed on the way past can make you think”
The mural combines images from the life sciences and biomedicine with illustrations from da Vinci and text in Catalan, Spanish and English. “The idea was to have as little text as possible, because if you’re passing through the Metro on your way to or from work, you don’t want to stop and read,” says Manzanas. “But just a sentence and an image glimpsed on the way past can make you think.”
EMBL Barcelona is one of six independent research institutes housed in the PRBB, an architecturally impressive building with an enviable seafront location. It arouses the curiosity of passers-by, but many have no idea what goes on behind the façade of wood and glass. “One of the objectives of the exhibition is to explain what we do in this building,” says Manzanas. “The PRBB team chose Ciutadella | Vila Olímpica station because it’s the closest to the PRBB. People come out of the Metro and they see the building.”
Participation in such collective public outreach initiatives is one of the advantages of being part of a hub like the PRBB. “The PRBB always tries to bring all the institutes together to do outreach events,” says Manzanas. “This is very beneficial for EMBL Barcelona as we continue to establish ourselves and gain visibility here. We’re very happy to be involved.”
Details of this and other activities at the PRBB are available on the el·lipse website.