Starting from an old idea, the building of the Palace of Parliament was built under Nicolae Ceauşescu during a period with high economic hardship. The dictator’s tendency was, on the one hand, to focus all the main bodies of the state in one building and, on the other hand, Ceauşescu wanted a safe place to live under a seismic risk, that would hold up to even a nuclear attack.
From an architectural point of view, the Parliament Palace is one of the most controversial buildings in Romania: Anca Petrescu1 identified it with the Buckingham Palace in London and the Versailles Palace in France, and the architects of the time with the „little Phenian”, with an eclectic style, loaded with contradictory elements2.
The building, in Anca Petrescu’s3 vision, is divided into 3 main categories: the first category – area of the main halls, galleries and cabinets; the second category – office area; the third category - belvedere, with three rooms on each floor.
The building has a surface of 365.000 sqm and holds the 1st position in the Guinness World Records for the largest administrative building (for civil use), and the 3rd place worldwide from the volume point of view of; it is the heaviest and most expensive building in the world4.
The other dimensions of the building are: length – 270 m, width – 245 m, height – 84 m (over 0 level), depth 16 m (under ground level), building footprint area – 73,615 sqm.
The building was built with construction materials produced in Romania, amongst which: 1,000,000 cbm of marble, 550,000 tons of cement, 700,000 tons of steel, 2,000,000 tons of sand, 1,000 tons of basalt, 900,000 cbm rich wood, 3,500 tons of crystal, 200,000 cbm of glass, 2,800 chandeliers, 220,000 sqm carpets, 3,500 sqm leather.
The entire construction is the result of over 100,000 workers’ effort, more than 20,000 persons working 24 hour three shifts per day, during the peak periods. Moreover, between years 1984 and 1990, 12,000 soldiers took part in the construction works.
As a consequence of the urbanization campaign, shortly after the earthquake in 19775, and the friendship with Kim Ir Sen, the North Korean leader, Ceauşescu initiated the plan to build a new political-administrative centre, in the area of the Uranus hill, the higher part of the Dâmboviţa hill, area which was confirmed by specialists as being safe for the construction of monumental buildings.
The total area which was demolished, starting with 1980, represented an equivalent of the fifth part of Bucharest area (4.5 km in length and 2 km in width), the equivalent of few districts of Paris and the total surface of Venice6.
Although the initial project had 80,000 sqm, People’s House had a surface 5 times bigger.
20 churches were destroyed, 8 were moved, 10,000 homes were demolished, and over 57,000 families were evicted. The following constructions were demolished: the Văcăreşti Monastery, the sacred hill bearing historic significance for Bucharest, located in Mihai Vodă, Spitalul Brâncovenesc which was the first forensic medicine institute in the world, Hala Unirii, the Operetta Building situated in Piaţa Senatului, the Army Arsenal Building and the National Military Museum.
Because the Ceauşescu couple could not understand the architectural plans, all the foam models were made on a scale of 1/1000 of the entire Bucharest city, including the streets, plazas, buildings, houses and monuments, made in relief and with certain details. The couple was walking over the models on a rolling bridge, giving instructions. The model was often modified, after each visit of the couple (almost weekly)7.
When the Revolution from year 1989 started, the building was 60% finalized. The construction works carried on later, between years 1992 and 1996, but at a much slower rate.
In 1993, the activity of the Chamber located in the Palace of the Patriarchate was moved to the Palace of the Parliament (formerly known as Casa Republicii), according to a Decision of the Chamber of Deputies8. One year later, on May 6th, 1994, the Bucharest International Conference Centre was established in the same location, according to another decision issued by the Chamber of Deputies.
In 2004, celebrating 140 years from the establishment of the First Chamber of Romanian Senate and the set-up of the bicameral system in our country, the new Plenum Room was officially opened.
The building, once intended to be a construction that worshipped socialism, communism and totalitarianism is now, after 27 years from the Revolution in 1989, a symbol of democracy due to the public institutes located inside (Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, the Legislative Council, the Constitutional Court of Romania).
1Anca Petrescu was the chief architect of the building, who, at 28 years of age, won almost all contests organized by Ceauşescu for planning the building; arch. dr. Nicolae Vlădescu mentioned that „she won a contest of circumstance, not one of architecture skills”;
2Gheorghe Leahu ”Bucureşti Micul Paris”, Autonomous Administration – Official Gazette
3 Coverage for the Foundation of Architecture in Brussels and for the National House of Monuments and Historical Sites in Paris (1990)
4 World Records Academy – http://www.worldrecordacademy.com/ - accessed in April 2015
5 the earthquake on March 4th, 1977 had 7.2 degrees on the Richter scale; over 1400 human victims were recorded
6Gheorghe Leahu ”Bucureşti Micul Paris”, the Autonomous Administration – the Official Gazette the Operetta Building in the Piaţa Senatului, the Army Arsenal Building and the National Military Museum.
7Gheorghe Leahu ”Bucureşti Micul Paris”, the Autonomous Administration – the Official Gazette
8 Decision of the Chamber of Deputies no. 31/March 16th, 1993