Romania’s capital Bucharest has a lot of beautiful monuments, which are must-sees when you visit it, but none of them comes even close to the People’s House or the Palace of the Parliament because of its sheer size. This one-of-a-kind palace is the second largest administrative edifice in the world, after the Pentagon.
The Palace of the Parliament, also known as the People’s House (Casa Poporului), is the seat of the Parliament of Romania, located atop Dealul Spirii in Bucharest, the national capital. The Palace reaches a height of 84 metres (276 ft), has a floor area of 365,000 square metres (3,930,000 sq ft) and a volume of 2,550,000 cubic metres (90,000,000 cu ft). The Palace of the Parliament is the heaviest building in the world, weighing about 4,098,500,000 kilograms (9.04 billion pounds; 4.10 million tonnes).
The construction of the People’s House was the most extreme expression of the systematization program imposed on Romania by Nicolae Ceaușescu. Systematization was a program of urban planning carried out by Ceaușescu, who was impressed by the societal organization and mass adulation he saw in North Korea‘s Juche ideology during his East Asia visit in 1971. Ceaușescu decided to implement similar policies in his country, with the stated goal of turning Romania into a “multilaterally developed socialist society.”
A systematization project had existed since the 1930s (during the time of King Carol II) for the Unirii–Dealul Arsenalului area. The Vrancea earthquake of 4 March 1977 gave Ceaușescu a pretext to demolish parts of old Bucharest. He wanted a civic center more in line with the country’s political stance and started a reconstruction plan of Bucharest based on the socialist realism style. The People’s House was the centrepiece of Ceaușescu’s project. Named Project Bucharest, it began in 1978 as an intended replica of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. North Korean President Kim Il-sung had started construction on a similarly monumental residence, the Kumsusan Palace, two years earlier.
A contest was held and won by Anca Petrescu (1949–2013), who was appointed chief architect of the project at the age of 28. The team that coordinated the work was made up of 10 assisting architects, which supervised a further 700. Construction of the palace began on 25 June 1984, and the inauguration of the work was attended by Ceaușescu, who also frequently inspected the site.
Uranus Hill was leveled so the building could be erected. The area had also been home to the National Archives, Mihai Vodă Monastery and other monasteries, Brâncovenesc Hospital, as well as about 37 old factories and workshops. Demolition in the Uranus area began in 1982. Approximately 7 square kilometres (2.7 sq mi) of the old city centre were demolished, with 40,000 people being relocated from the area. The works were carried out with forced labour in addition to soldiers, minimizing costs.
Between 20,000 and 100,000 people worked on the site and project, operating in three shifts made up of 5,000 Romanian People’s Army soldiers and huge numbers of “volunteers”.
In 1989, the building costs were estimated at US$1.75 billion, and in 2006 at US€3 billion. In 1990, Australian-born business and media magnate Rupert Murdoch tried to buy the building for US$1 billion, but his bid was rejected.
Since 1994, the palace has housed the lower house of the Romanian Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, after its former seat, the Palace of the Chamber of Deputies (now the Palace of the Patriarchate), was donated by the State to the Romanian Orthodox Church. Since 2004, the upper house, the Senate of Romania, has also been housed in the Palace of the Parliament, after having left the former headquarters of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party.
Six years after the palace’s completion, between 2003 and 2004, a glass annex was built alongside the external elevators. This was done to facilitate outside access to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened in 2004 in the west wing of the palace. During the same period, a project aiming to hoist a huge flag was cancelled following public protests. A flag already hoisted outside the building was also removed after the protests.
A restaurant inside the palace, accessible only to politicians, was refurbished. Since 1998, the building has also housed an office for the Regional Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) Centre for Fighting Transborder Crime.
In 2008, the Palace hosted the 20th summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 2010, politician Silviu Prigoană proposed re-purposing the building into a shopping centre and entertainment complex. Citing costs, Prigoană said that the Romanian Parliament should move to a new building, since they occupied only 30% of the massive palace. While the proposal sparked debate in Romania, politician Miron Mitrea dismissed the idea as a “joke”.
Read an article about CEC Palace, other amazing palace in Bucharest.