Palace of the Parliament

 

The Palace of the Parliament (Romanian: Palatul Parlamentului) is the seat of the Parliament of Romania. Located on Dealul Arsenalului in central Bucharest (Sector 5), it is the largest administrative building in the world  with a height of 84 m, an area of 365,000 m2 and a volume of 2,550,000 m3. In terms of weight, the Palace of the Parliament is the heaviest building in the world, weighing in at around 4,098,500,000 kg.

A colossal parliament building known for its ornate interior composed of 23 sections, it houses the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, three museums and an international conference center. The museums hosted inside the Palace are the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Communist Totalitarianism (established in 2015) and the Museum of the Palace. Though named the House of the Republic (Romanian: Casa Republicii), after the Romanian Revolution in 1989 it became widely known as the People’s House (Romanian: Casa Poporului). Due to its impressive endowments, events organized by state institutions and international bodies such as conferences, symposia, and others take place there, but even so about 70% of the building remains empty.

In 1990, Australian business magnate Rupert Murdoch wanted to buy the building for US $1 billion, but his bid was rejected.  As of 2008, the Palace of the Parliament is valued at €3 billion ($3.4 billion), making it the most expensive administrative building in the world.  The cost of heating and electric lighting alone exceeds $6 million per year, as much as the cost for a medium-sized city.

After the earthquake of March 4th 1977, Nicolae Ceaușescu started a reconstruction plan of Bucharest. The People’s House was the center of this project. Named Project Bucharest, it was an ambitious project of Ceaușescu’s begun in 1978 as an intended replica of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. A systematization project existed since the 1930s (during the time of Carol II) for the Unirii–Dealul Arsenalului area. Its construction was organized as a contest and won by Anca Petrescu, who was appointed chief architect of the project when she was just 28. In total, the team that coordinated the work was made up of 10 architects, which supervised a further 700.  Construction of the Palace began on June 25th 1984, and the inauguration of the work was attended by Ceaușescu.

The building was erected on the site of some monasteries that were demolished and on the site of Uranus Hill that was leveled. In this area were located the National Archives, Văcărești Monastery, Brâncovenesc Hospital, as well as about 37 old factories and workshops.  Demolition in Uranus area began in 1982. 7 km2 of the old city center was demolished, and 40,000 people were relocated from this area. The works were carried out with forced labor of soldiers and so the cost was minimized.

Between 20,000 and 100,000 people worked on the site, sometimes operating in three shifts. Thousands of people died at the People’s House, some mention a figure of 3,000 people.

In 1989 building costs were estimated at $1.75 billion, and in 2006 at €3 billion.

Since 1994 the building hosts the Chamber of Deputies, after the initial headquarters of the institution, the Palace of the Chamber of Deputies (now the Palace of the Patriarchate), was donated by state to the Romanian Orthodox Church. Since 2004 the Romanian Senate is headquartered in the building, originally housed in the former building of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party.

Between 2003 and 2004 a glass annex was built alongside external elevators.  This was done to facilitate access to the National Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 2004 inside the west wing of the Palace. In the same period, a project aiming to hoist a huge flag was canceled following protests from the public. A flag was already hoisted on the building, but was removed together with the support.

The restaurant, accessible only to politicians, was refurbished. Since 1998 the building houses a Regional SECI Center for Fighting Transborder Crime.

In 2008, the Palace hosted the 20th NATO summit. In 2010, politician Silviu Prigoană proposed re-purposing the building into a shopping centre and an entertainment complex. Citing costs, Prigoană said that Parliament should move to a new building, as they occupied only 30% of the massive palace. While the proposal has sparked a debate in Romania, politician Miron Mitrea dismissed the idea as a “joke”.

The construction of the Palace began in 1984 and initially should have been completed in only two years. The term was then extended until 1990, but even now it is not finalized. Only 400 rooms and two meeting rooms are finished and used, out of 1,100 rooms.

The building has eight underground levels, the last one being an antiatomic bunker, linked to the main state institutions by 20 km of catacombs. Nicolae Ceaușescu feared nuclear war. The bunker is a room with 1.5 m thick concrete walls and can not be penetrated by radiation. The shelter is composed of the main hall – headquarters that would have had telephone connections with all military units in Romania – and several residential apartments for state leadership, in the event of war.

The building has a developed area of 365,000 m2, making it the world’s second-largest administrative building, after The Pentagon, and in terms of volume, with its 2.55 million m3, it is the third most massive, after the Vehicle Assembly Building of the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan, Mexico. For comparison, it can be mentioned that the building exceeds by 2% the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and therefore some sources label it as a “pharaonic” construction.

The building of the Palace of the Parliament sinks by 6 mm each year.  Romanian specialists who analyzed the data argue that massive weight and structure of the Palace lead to the settlement of layers below the construction.

The building was constructed almost entirely of materials of Romanian origin. The only exceptions are the doors of Nicolae Bălcescu Hall. These were received by Ceaușescu as a gift from his friend Mobutu Sese Seko, the President of Zaire.

Among them: 3,500 tonnes of crystal – 480 chandeliers, 1,409 ceiling lights and mirrors were manufactured; 700,000 tonnes of steel and bronze for monumental doors and windows, chandeliers and capitals; 900,000 m3 of wood  (over 95% domestic) for parquet and wainscotting, including walnut, oak, sweet cherry, elm, sycamore maple; 200,000 m2 of woolen carpets of various dimensions (machines had to be moved inside the building to weave some of the larger carpets); velvetand brocade curtains adorned with embroideries and passementeries in silver and gold.  (References: Wikipedia)

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