The Palace of Parliament

 

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The Palace of Parliament is the largest administrative building in the world used for civilian purposes, as well as the second largest administrative building overall (surpassed only by The Pentagon) and the heaviest administrative building in the world. The building currently houses the Romanian Chamber of Deputies (Lower House of Parliament) and the Romanian Senate (Upper House of Parliament). It is also the HQ of the Southeast European Cooperation Initiative (SECI) and it has been during the past decade a venue for an important number of international conferences and multilateral diplomatic forums.

The Palace of Parliament traces its roots to the final years of the 8th decade of the 20th Century, belonging to an ample project which intended to redesign the aspect of Bucharest through the construction of a series of massive buildings with the purpose of exhibiting the power and wealth of the Ceausescu governed Socialist Republic of Romania. The Palace of Parliament represented the most grandiose building of the project however, as it was originally intended to house the main institutions belonging to all branches of power: The Great National Assembly (a form of Parliament), the Presidency, the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Court. In addition, it was also supposed to become the residency of the Ceausescu family.

The actual construction began in the year 1983 and by the time of the Romanian Revolution of 16-22 December 1989 it was for the most part complete, although at that time it was not furnished and there were many structural aspects which needed consolidation. The workload involved about 20.000 workers (an important part of the workforce being army troops) working in third shifts in a rhythm of 24 hours each day. After the Revolution there were many voices which demanded the destruction of the building which was perceived by some as a symbol of the megalomania of Ceausescu and the opulent luxury of the former communist elites. The public campaign directed toward this objective failed however and in 1994 the Palace of Parliament became the HQ of the Chamber of Deputies as the institution vacanted a building belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church. In 2005 the Palace also became the HQ of the Romanian Senate as the institution vacanted the former HQ of the Communist Party Central Committee (currently HQ of the Ministry of Interior).

Palace_of_ParliamentThe Palace of Parliament is located relatively close to the center of Bucharest, on a hill called “Dealul Spirii”. The building is visible from basically anywhere in Bucharest as long as the vantage point is high enough to avoid impairment from other tall buildings. In the construction process, the scale of the project was so tremendous that whole neighbourhoods had to be demolished in order to make way for the gigantic structure. This situation had all the more negative consequences as many buildings on Dealul Spirii were in fact historical monuments, belonging to the “Old Center” of the town. The important archeological legacy destroyed was added therefore to the tragic displacement of local residents. In total, it is estimated that over 30.000 residences were demolished, as well as 19 Orthodox Christian Churches, 6 Jewish Synagogues and 3 Protestant Churches.

The Palace of Parliament measures in total 270 metres in length, 240 in width, is 86 metres high and it has a depth of 92 metres underground. The surface of the structure constructed above ground measures 66.000 square metres. It is 12 stories high and has over 1.100 rooms. The materials used in the construction and decoration process involve: 1.000.000 cubic metres of marble, 900.000 cubic metres of wood, 7.000 tones of steel, 5.500 tones of cement, 3.500 tones of cristal, 200.000 square metres of carpets, 20.000 tones of sand and 2.800 chandeliers. Aside from the 1100 rooms of the Palace of Parliament there are 4 restaurants, 3 libraries, 2 underground parkings, a concert hall and over 30 major halls. From the 30 halls, the most important are the Human Rights Hall, the Nicolae Balcescu Hall, the Nicolae Iorga Hall, the Alexandru Ioan Cuza Hall, the Ion I.C. Bratianu Hall, the Take Ionescu Hall, the C.A. Rosetti Hall, the Union Hall, etc., the majority of them being named after famous Romanian politicians belonging to the XIX century and the beginning of the XX-th Century.

Interesting facts

• The original name of the Palace of Parliament was in fact the “House of the Republic”. It was changed after the Romanian Revolution into the “People’s House” and eventually into the Palace of Parliament after it became the HQ of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

• All the material used in the construction and decoration of the Palace of Parliament is of Romanian origin, except the doors of the Nicolae Balcescu Hall. The two doors are made from mahogany and they were sent to Ceausescu as a gift from his friend, the African dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, at that time President of the Republic of Zaire.

• The 2008 NATO Summit which took place in Romania was hosted by the Palace of Parliament. In addition, the Palace of Parliament regularly hosts high-level international conferences such as the 9th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in 2000, the 22nd Plenary Session of PABSEC in 2003, the 2nd CEFTA Conference in 2006, etc.

• The TV Show Top Gear’s Episode 1 of Series 14 features the Palace of Parliament as the end of a sat-nav race through Bucharest between Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. After the end of the race the three presenters are shown driving their cars through the tunnels beneath the Palace of Parliament.