Inside The World’s Most Ridiculously Extravagant Communist Building
I 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, potayto, potahto. 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.
click to see an interactive map showing the location of this article
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.
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 every Yomadic article on communist architecture – click here.
PPS, for continuity, I will mention that I visited Romania recently, but right now, I’m in Belgrade, Serbia.
25 thoughts on “Inside The World’s Most Ridiculously Extravagant Communist Building”
I agree that there is something magical about the sheer insanity of communist architecture. When my friend scored an apartment in one of Stalin’s Seven Sisters buildings in Moscow, I could hardly be kicked out of the housewarming party.
This building, though, really wins the most extravagantly over-the-top award.
Damn Polly, hook me up! Let’s make a house-warming party part-two ;)
Nate these photos are simply stunning! I am a big fan of communist architecture too, I’m not sure what exactly it is about it that fascinates me, but I love it!
Thanks Franca! There are a lot of us fans out there!
To me this shows how communist, or socialist, leaders are actually capitalist at heart. Look at North Korean leaders; they are known for their lavish spending on luxury goods. Ideology is often used by political leaders to move people for achieving what the leaders want.
It’s a conundrum for sure, Bama. Unfortunately, it appears as though this particular went just a little over-board in making his statement. And, he paid the price with his life. Personally – I think all leaders are much the same – whether communist, capitalist, whateverist: one rule for them, another rule for everyone else.
I’ve been planning to go to Bucharest for a while now and my only reason for that is that very building! and with these amazing (as always:)) pictures you made me want to go there even more!
btw, you should try to go to Minsk (too bad you couldn’t have done so during the hockey championships, when the entry to Belarus was visa free), you’d love the communist architecture there! I was in heaven! ;)
Kami! Bucharest is a great city, you should check it out for sure (and Romania in general is incredible). I reaalllly want to go to Minsk/Belarus… it’s a pity the timing was off, I guess I’ll just have to go through the visa procedure. Belarus is already on my list, you’ve just moved it up the rankings!
I was in Romania before but only to the pretty part, Transylvania. And while I enjoyed picturesque towns I missed the twisted communist architecture ;) I’m sure I will be back soon, it’s just a matter of time (and good offer on flights!)
I really hope you will get to Belarus soon, I want to see your pictures from there!! ;)
I thought you had been to Romania before!
Ceaușescu was overthrown in 1989, not 1986. But great write-up as always, Nate! Looking forward to the Balkans trip!
Oh shit how did I mess that one up…haha… thanks Ken, I will see you for some fun adventures very soon!
this place is unreal
Hard to believe, right?
Just visited this ourselves today. Great write-up, got more out of this than the stale tour guide. :)
Hey Dalene, glad you visited! And glad you got something out of this article :)
Buildings are so beautiful! Awesome design! I am a big fan of communist framework too.
You and me both, John.
Ah I didn’t go inside this building, just gazed from the outside. Great photos.
Cheers Kitten. First time I visited, I didn’t go inside either. As you can see, it’s pretty impressive! Like your blog btw, I cut my urbex teeth in Australia.
First of all, what a great post! enjoyed reading that little bit of history. and yes the Romanians do sound really cool! Second, that palatial parliament building – whoa. just that.
I’ve been dying to visit Romania and other countries in the balkans area, cant wait to do so!
Do it Celyn! They have style, and they like chocolates ;)
Romanian import to Da States here, born pretty much around the corner from that behemoth. Having actually LIVED in that era, I can tell you Romanians hate communist architecture. Not necessarily because of aesthetic reasons, but because of the reminder. Otherwise – ugly but EXTREMELY sturdy. And that mofo there could withstand even a Klingon attack. I’m not sure they let you visit the underground – but the thing is as big under as it is above. Or almost. And yes – every-freaking-thing in that building is Romanian. Starting from nails and bolts, and ending with the marble, crystals, rugs, etc… There are even a few anecdotal stories about how they lifted the rugs and got them into the building through the windows. Not enough room otherwise even through those massive doorways. Not so funny is the fact that people actually died during the construction stage.
Awesome write-up though! Loved it!
Amazing photos! I am currently writing a story set in the Palace of Parliament, and I’d like to use some photos. It is a commercial story. Do you have a license for the photos? Please reach out, if you are interested in getting these seen by more people.