Rome may boast the greatest number of architects per capita, but only in Paris do people engage in facade-watching. Granted, few cities have facades that are as entertaining to watch as Paris' Centre Pompidou. Its iconic architecture has been likened to the guts of a building turned inside out. It reminds me of a giant piece of machinery or transit infrastructure, such as a subway tunnel, that has had its skin pealed away to expose the activity and workings on the inside. In addition to revealing the building's functional core, this unveiled quality reveals the museum's visitors moving up and down on escalators and stairs. Even on gray days, you will find Parisians seated, facing the building, positioned like spectators on the tilted plaza that faces the building's west facade.
In addition to hosting noteworthy architecture, the plaza and the adjacent Place Stravinsky are important social spaces for Parisians. Situated at the edge of the Marais and close to les Halles, it is a frequent meeting place for residents and workers of 1st and 4th arondissements. There are also tourists here--and with them the spectacle of street performers and vendors looking to make a few euros from the assembled crowds.
Almost as eclectic and diverse as the people who gather here is the sculptural ensemble that animates the Fontaine Stravinksy. These colorful and playful sculptures were commissioned by the city of Paris and executed by sculptors Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle in the early 1980s. In the summer months the sculptures are animated with splashing, spouting and spining jets of water.