The Parliament Palace, more commonly referred to as the People’s House (Casa Poporului) is the closest thing to the idea of symbol of Bucharest. This bewilderingly monumental structure is the second largest administrative building in the world, only after the Pentagon and, with respect to its technical and architectural parameters, it is often compared with the Egyptian or Mexican pyramids. Thus, as far as the volume is concerned, the Parliament Palace is also the third largest after Cape Canaveral in the United States and the Keops Pyramid. The building stretches on a surface of 64,800 square meters and amounts to 86 meters in height, not to mention the 92-meter underground.
As compared with the centennial history of Bucharest, the Parliament Palace is a relatively recent presence within the architectural landscape of the city. The construction works started in 1984, by order of Nicolae Ceauşescu, who intended to turn the venue into the headquarters of the Parliament (back then, called the Great National Assembly), of the Government (Council of Ministers) and of the Supreme Court. The building was also meant to be the home of the presidential couple (Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu). Given this intent, the project required the services of a team of no less than 700 architects (led by Anca Petrescu) and the employment of 20,000 workers.
Furthermore, another particular feature of the Parliament Palace is all of the construction materials and furnishings are of Romanian origin, beginning with the marble, the steel and the bronze, and ending with the wood and the textiles. The amounts of each of these materials are counted, given the extent of the project, in hundreds of thousands of tons and square and cubic meters (for instance, 3,500 tons of crystals, 1 million cubic meters of marble, 200,000 square meters of carpets, and 700,000 tons of steel and bronze). The size, the structure (12 floors counting 1,100 rooms, 4 underground levels and the underground bunker) and the construction materials of which the Parliament Palace was built turn the venue into one of the most expensive buildings in the world, at least in terms of maintenance.
The Parliament Palace is, without a doubt, one of the main tourist sights in Bucharest, but sadly enough the building of the structure required substantial sacrifices: an irremediable alteration of the architectural landscape of the city. Thus, much of the historical district of Bucharest was literally raised to the ground in order to make way to the Parliament Palace (more than 30 places of worship were either pulled down or moved, and 30,000 private residences shared the same fate).
The building sits on the so-called Dealul Spirii (Spirii Hill), also referred to as Dealul Arsenal (Arsenal Hill), and at present it houses the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. One of the wings is also home to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The palace is opened to visits, and guided tours in English are also available. Most certainly, a tour of the Parliament Palace can be compared with a walk in a world of extreme luxury and in a historical episode the irony and tragedy of which consist precisely of the disparity between the megalomaniac projects of Ceauşescu and the destitution of the people who endured for decades the political, cultural and economic whims of the gloomiest of all presidential couples of Romania.
1, Calea 13 Septembrie, Bucharest, Romania