There is an ongoing debate about the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest. Is it good or bad? I’ll give you my opinion in a minute, but first some undisputed facts:
- This is the 2nd largest building in the world based on floor space, second only to the Pentagon in Washington.
- It is 3rd largest in volume. So it’s really really big.
- Built by Nicolae Ceauşescu during the 1980s after a massive earthquake, it was supposed to consolidate all government offices in a single building.
And this is a truly massive building and very interesting to tour.
There were a large number of tourist groups when I visited on a Sunday, but the tours were handled efficiently. My tour guide was fairly new having only been on duty for two months. He said he preferred Americans because he has had Romanians argue with each other about whether the building is good or bad.
“The Dictator” is not referred to by name, though he is a shadow lingering over the place. There were vast galleries, theater, ballroom and meeting rooms, some of which had their lights turned off, and our guide admitted that he didn’t know how to turn them on.
There was a simple austerity about the rooms rather than overblown extravagance. Rather than being the same, each room was designed in a different architectural style.
As far as whether it was good or bad, simply look back at the capitol building of my country, the US. It is a very large and dignified ediface. But it was built while the country was in civil war and our soldiers were killing each other in droves.
I think a nation’s capital represent the highest aspirations of its people at the time it is built. This building in Bucharest is pretty audacious and might serve well as the capital building of the entire planet. But it is no more extravagant than the US capital by this measure.