have an unwavering love of “Communist” architecture. But it’s a tough subject to broach, for many reasons. First, there is no particular definition of communist architecture. I simply include anything built under a communist regime. Second, there are the usual cries of “but my country wasn’t communist! …we were socialists!”. Well, excuse my casually flippant attitude, but as a gen-x’er, born and raised in the capitalist West on a steady diet provided by Hollywood and a colour TV (we had them everywhere when I was growing up), I would just say, potato, potato. Either way, all communist architecture I’ve featured on Yomadic to date, is modernist inspired, mid-century constructed, grey, concrete, geometric, decayed, brutalist, and just a little dystopian – all the things I love. That is, until now.
It’s billed as the worlds heaviest, largest, and most expensive administrative building ever constructed in the history of the planet. Located in downtown Bucharest, capital city of Romania, lies the enormous “Palace of Parliament”. Known locally as “Palatul Parlamentului”, architect Mrs Anca Petrescu oversaw construction that began in 1984 – but the monolith is yet to be completed. Let’s get the facts and figures out of the way, and then we can discuss just how cool Romanians are.
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The Palace is 340,000 square metres of excess. That’s 272 Olympic Swimming Pools, laid out next to each other. Or, 780 professional basketball courts. According to Wikipedia, not only is the Palace of Parliament the largest administrative building on Earth, but is also has about half the floor area of The Pentagon in Washington. So we’re both learning something today: never believe what is written in Wikipedia.
Perhaps Wikipedia is using the word “large” as in “living large”, which is exactly what dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu would have been doing, with more than a thousand rooms at his disposal – in this building alone. But, Ceaușescu was a grade A asshole. Equal parts bad-haircut and psychotic despot. His communist experiment of a planned economy not only didn’t work, it systematically impoverished millions of Romanians. With the use of forced labour, Ceaușescu built a palace bigger, more extravagant, and more ridiculous in scale than probably any other administrative building ever constructed – at the expense of the quality of life of his own people. Perhaps Ceaușescu had never realised that all actions, have consequences. In 1989, when the Romanian people finally rose up, revolted against Ceaușescu’s government and placed him and his wife on trial. This is what happened.
Nicolae Ceaușescu’s trial lasted an hour and a half. He was found guilty of genocide, undermining the national economy, subversion of military power, and just generally being a major dick. Ceaușescu and his wife Elena were immediately taken out the back of the court room, and shot. In the head. One-hundred and twenty times. On Christmas Day. Just twenty minutes before four-twenty, and mere days before Bon Jovi’s seminal cock-rock album, Slippery When Wet, was due to be released in Romania. Moments before being shot, Elena Ceaușescu screamed, “you motherfuckers”, and Nicolae said “hey, at least I wasn’t born in Bosnia, anything is better than being born in Bosnia.” What an asshole. After the shooting, the death penalty was abolished in Romania. And later that day, the whole thing was broadcast on prime-time TV all over the country. Romanians, 1, everybody else, 0.
These days, Romanians enjoy free cocktails at supermarkets, Pepsi is available for sale inside the Palace, and the future isn’t looking too bad, all things considered.
But seriously, Ceaușescu, what an asshole.
PS, for the sake of continuity, I will mention that I visited Romania a few months back. Right now, I’m in Belgrade, Serbia, and life is good. I would love for you to follow my ongoing journey – I’ve been travelling for almost seven-hundred days so far, and I’m just getting started. Pop your email in below – and join the people who get each new post – before anyone else. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time, there is no-spam ever, and your address always remains private. You’ll also get bigger versions of each photo, and you’ll have a direct line straight to me. Convinced?
PPS, for every Yomadic article on communist architecture – click here – sit back, and enjoy.