Romania’s Palace of the Parliament, aka the People’s House, is “according to the World Record Academy, the heaviest and most expensive civil administrative building in the world”. Completed in 1997, it cost almost 4 billion Euros to build. In the administrative building category, it’s second in size only to the US Pentagon. The Palace has 12 levels above ground, 8 underground, including a nuclear bunker, and secret tunnels to other government buildings.
The building covers 360,000 sq. ft. of breathtaking marble floors, walls, stairways, and columns, silver brocade curtains, gold-leaf ceilings, ornate carved wooden doors, and spectacular crystal chandeliers. It has a hulking, massive presence in Bucharest!
“Meant to be communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his totalitarian regime’s crowning achievement during an ambitious urban development plan, the Palace is one of the most extravagant and expensive building projects in world history.” During my tour, I saw less than 10 percent of the palace’s total square footage. My mind is still reeling from contemplating the excessiveness of the monumental building and what I learned of its history.
“Ceausescu’s quasi-Maoist speech in July 1971 (known as The July Theses) marked the beginning of a mini cultural revolution in the Socialist Republic of Romania. It launched a Neo-Stalinist offensive against cultural autonomy, a return to the strict guidelines of socialist realism, and attacks on non-compliant intellectuals.”
Great Union Day December 1
I walked about a mile from my apartment to the Parliament building, and along the way, was stunned by jets overhead buzzing the city’s streets, marking the Great Union Day celebration. They flew very low, and it reminded me of the Blue Angels dive-bombing the streets of San Francisco during Fleet Week. While looking up at the airplanes, I wondered how it might have been on the same Bucharest streets during WWII bombardments.
“Bucharest’s notorious Palace of the Parliament bears witness to the folly of a dictator shot dead on Christmas Day 1989. It’s a monument to dictatorial folly whose benefactor was executed before he could see it completed.” Shaun Walker The Guardian
New Prime Minister
Current Romanian President Klaus Iohannis recently swore in Nicolae Ciuca as Romania’s Prime Minister. About a week ago, Ciuca was endorsed by a majority of lawmakers, ending a two-month political stalemate. Ciuca’s three-party majority coalition controls two-thirds of the 466-seat Romanian Legislature:
- Center-Right National Liberal Party (PNL)
- Leftist Social Democratic Party (PSD)
- Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR)
“The Palace of Parliament was built in the 1980s, exclusively using Romania’s natural resources. Some of the materials included 1,000,000 cubic meters of marble, 3,500 tons of crystal, 1.5 billion pounds of steel and bronze, and 550,000 tons of cement. The Palace has 1,100 rooms and 2,800 chandeliers, the largest weighing 11,000 lbs. The heaviest building in the world is “supposedly sinking a few millimeters per year”.
“Communist Leader Nicolae Ceaușescu ruled Romania from 1965 until his sudden and violent death in December 1989. His oppressive regime left deep scars in all aspects of life, including urban planning and architecture.” Atlas Obscura
About a “fifth of the historic centre of old Bucharest was demolished to build the gigantic edifice“. Thousands of people were displaced and historical monuments, churches, and monasteries were destroyed. It was constructed through the backbreaking labor of thousands of Romanian workers, many of whom died during the project. Billions of dollars were poured into the massive project dedicated to its ruling class, while the Romanian people “faced food shortages, blackouts, and gas cuts as “.
Construction began during the Communist Regime in 1983 and took over 14 years to complete. The project involved 400 architects and was coordinated by a controversial young woman named Anca Petrescu. Today, it houses the Romanian Parliament and is a venue for large events and state occasions.
You must schedule a tour of the Palace in advance and bring your passport for scanning during a strict security check. The guards tried to be really scary, maybe for show? The process was similar to touring the Reichstag Building in Berlin, which I visited in December 2018.
“The Palace of Parliament not only shows the megalomania of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romanian communist politician and dictator, but also the architectural prowess of Romanians.”
This trip has been a continuous learning experience!