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Palace of Parliament, Bucharest

Designed to house the Romanian government and Parliament after the devastating earthquake of 1977, the palace in the country's capital city, Bucharest, is the world's second largest administrative building after the Pentagon and the world's largest civilian building. It is sometimes referred to as a giant Stalinist wedding cake. It was built with the intention of being earthquake-proof and lasting at least 500 years.

The construction project started in 1984 and was nearly completed under the Ceaușescu dictatorial regime. The regime was overthrown in December 1989. After the Romanian revolution, final completion wasn't until 1997, about the time of the first of two visits I have made there.

Since 1996, the building has housed Romania's Chamber of Deputies, the Romanian Legislative Council and the Romanian Competition Council. It has housed the Romanian Senate since 2005. The sheer size of it (1100 rooms) mean that despite many other functions, such as hosting the 2008 NATO summit, approximately 70% of the building remains unused.

The Palace was designed by architect Anca Petre. Not only is it the most expensive administrative building and heaviest building in the world, it can be seen from space. The interior contains massive crystal chandeliers, curtains and carpets of unbelievable dimensions, all spread over a massive 340,000 square metre (3,700,000 square ft) floor area. It contains a wide array of function rooms, theatre-style rooms and concert halls. Although there are twelve floors above ground, there are four below ground and another four underground in various stages of completion. It is worth noting here that underground construction was something Ceaușescu incorporated into the city and much of it remained (and still does) a secret for the purpose of national security. The most striking feature of the palace, I found was the use of marble in it's construction. I had the fortune on my first visit of going on a tour alongside an Australian structural engineer who was on holiday and had previously worked on many large famous projects worldwide. I found an unfinished gap in the wall of one of the rooms and to his amazement, the marble was far, far thicker than what he had ever seen. I asked him how much the marble would cost to build the palace in the West. His response was a very resounding acknowledgement that there would be no calculable price. The marble, he informed me was far greater in amount than any of the world global market availability. Indeed, I later found out that two Transylvanian mountains of marble were hacked down from the Romanian landscape to source the one million or so cubic metres of the stuff. Construction of the palace, along with Ceaușescu's other grand ideas drained the nation's wealth, resulted in huge international debts and food-rationing, gas, electric and heating blackouts became commonplace. People lived in squalor and poverty as the Ceaușescu's themselves exhibited outrageous extravagance in their own lavish lifestyles.

40,000 people were evicted in all to make way for the palace, along with fourteen historical orthodox churches and a synagogue. One building, a 16th century church was moved 225 metres along with its bell tower only to be subsequently swamped by new tall modern buildings.

The palace is open to the public for guided tours. On entrance, expect airport-style security and note that if you know a little bit about Ceaușescu's regime and how he treated those under him and aren't expecting to see the extravagant abuse of resources which are evident in this most opulent of follies, prepare to be quite disgusted (at the same time in awe).

Please note: Apologies for the poor photo quality (taken latter half of 1990's). I have some newer ones from another visit hiding somewhere on a hard drive, so may replace those below sometime in the future.

Palace of Parliament, Bucharest, Romania

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