Built by Communist Party leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, the colossal Parliament Palace (formerly known as the People”s Palace) is the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon. It took 20,000 workers and 700 architects to build. The palace boasts 12 stories, 1,100 rooms, a 328-ft-long lobby and four underground levels, including an enormous nuclear bunker.
The Palace of Parliament it is the world”s second-largest office building in surface (after the Pentagon) and the third largest in volume (after Cape Canaveral in the U.S. and The Great Pyramid in Egypt) The crystal chandelier in the Human Rights Hall (Sala Drepturilor Omului) weighs 2.5 tons. Some of the chandeliers have as many as 7,000 light bulbs.
When construction started in 1984, the dictator intended it to be the headquarters of his government. Today, it houses Romania”s Parliament and serves as an international conference centre. Built and furnished exclusively with Romanian materials, the building reflects the work of the country”s best artisans.
A guided tour takes visitors through a small section of dazzling rooms, huge halls and quarters used by the Senate (when not in session). The interior is a luxurious display of crystal chandeliers, mosaics, oak paneling, marble, gold leaf, stained-glass windows and floors covered in rich carpets.
Ceausescu”s building megalomania climaxed with the construction of the Civic Center, an area located at the south end of the Palace of Parliament along Bulevardul Unirii. Bucharest had taken significant damage from the Allied bombing during World War II and the earthquake of March 4, 1977. However, neither of these events changed the face of the city as much as the redevelopment schemes of the 1980s, when eight square kilometers in the Old Historical Centre of Bucharest were leveled, including monasteries, churches, synagogues, a hospital and a noted Art Deco sports stadium. Some 40,000 people were evicted with only a single day”s notice to make room for the construction of these Stalinist apartment buildings topped with neoclassical follies.
Also, 21 churches and 1 stadium were demolished. 4 churches were saved, only by being put on railways and moved several hundred meters.
Centrul Civic is a complex of modern concrete buildings with marble façades, centered on a boulevard originally known as the Boulevard of the Victory of Socialism, renamed after the Romanian Revolution of 1989 as Union (“Unirii”) Boulevard. The Boulevard, modeled after Paris”s Champs-Élysées, runs roughly east-west, constituting a grand approach to the Palace of the People at its western terminus. A grand balcony in the Palace surveys the entire length of the boulevard.
Centrul Civic includes numerous government offices and apartments, the latter being roughly equal in number to the housing units destroyed for its construction. The apartments were originally intended to house Romania”s communist elite, but the completed complex is certainly not a preferred residence for the city”s new capitalist elite, with the possible exception of buildings that look out on the now-bustling Unirea Square, where Centrul Civic bisects the Dâmboviţa River, which is channeled underground past the Square.
Centrul Civic stands out through its high degree of architectural uniformity, but also through its lack of commercial spaces. Most of the small shops and restaurants that form the heart of Bucharest are to be found in the areas immediately to the north of Centrul Civic.
The National Library of Romania (built in the 1980”s but finished only in 2011 with a new design) stands where historic buildings (including much of the city”s historic Jewish quarter) once stood.
Centrul Civic is surrounded on nearly all sides by historical buildings and neighborhoods. Lipscani, in particular, is one famous nearby street. Many churches, such as the Sf. Nicolai-Mihai Vodă Church, were moved rather than demolished, and the nearby Antim Monastery remains largely intact, although minus its eastern wing. Immediately adjacent.