Described by its detractors as a giant Stalinist wedding cake, Bucharest’s Palace of Parliament, also referred to as the People’s Palace, is the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon. Architect Anca Petrescu was just 28 years old when she designed this gargantuan edifice on the orders of Romania’s feared dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. She wasn’t the only architect to work on it of course, she led a group of 700 Romanian architects in crafting every last detail of the still-unfinished building which was begun in 1983.
Ceausescu called it the People’s House, apparently without irony, and the intention was to provide a single building into which all the departments and branches of government could fit, instead of being spread around the city. A whole neighbourhood was flattened to enable the construction. Ceausescu decreed that only Romanian materials should be used in the building, though locals doubt this fact, and the 700 architects worked them into a dizzying array of designs, styles and motifs. The project was to be his undoing, as Ceausescu drove the country deep into debt, exporting all he could, including food, to finance the production, at breakneck speed, of his ego writ large on the cityscape. There are 12 above ground stories and at least 8 below ground (there may be more, the Romanian government won’t disclose the full size of the building).
We took a tour there on our team trip to Romania in October 2014 and snapped a few photos:
See 5% of it for yourself
You can take a group guided tour, they run daily between 10am and 4pm and take about an hour. During this time you’ll see just 5% of the building. The tour is relatively inexpensive, at under $10 but you’ll pay a little more than that if you want a photo or video permit. Remember to take your passport or state-issued ID card with you, as a working government building, security is tight. For more details, see the official website.