Perhaps we are supposed to see this structure like a fake mole on an actress’s blemish-free complexion. Buildings great and modest sport some form of refinement—from mansard crowns to iron balustrades guarding French doors down to the brass knockers on 12′ oaken portals—throughout the central arrondissements municipal that comprise walkable Paris. The beloved Centre Pompidou is a notable exception. It resembles not so much a skeleton as a living body with the skin surgically removed. Ventilation shafts, plumbing, electrical conduit, and the columns and bracketing that hold the glass partitions and flooring in place are thoroughly exposed. It sparks the engineering curiosity of precocious children who can analyze the cause of the escalator failures here and there.
Though I found the space uninviting and confusing—get there early so that you can play “find the entrance,”—the modern art collection is unexpectedly spectacular. I offer two of my favorites: