BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Anca Petrescu, the chief architect of Bucharest's "Palace of the People," a massive government structure that has been described as a huge Stalinist wedding cake, died Wednesday. She was 64.
Petrescu, who had been in a coma after a September car accident, died in Floreasca Hospital in the Romanian capital, hospital spokesman Dr. Bogdan Oprita said. Her landmark Bucharest palace is the world's second-largest administrative building after the Pentagon. It spans 350,000 square meters (3.77 million square feet) and is perhaps the most visible legacy of Romania's late dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.
Appointed the building's chief architect in 1978, Petrescu worked at the still-unfinished palace until her accident. She told The Associated Press in an interview last year that Buckingham Palace in London and the Palace of Versailles outside Paris were her artistic inspirations for the building, not North Korean architecture as was widely reported.
Petrescu recalled Ceausescu, who was tried and executed Dec. 25, 1989, and never got to use the palace, as being obsessed with detail and constantly inspecting the site. She said that were he alive to see what had become of the palace, which even hosts weddings and balls today, he "would make the sign of the cross" — as in he'd be horrified.
After communism ended, Petrescu was criticized for her role in creating the grandiose building, on which 1 million Romanians worked round the clock. Some 9,000 homes were demolished, churches and synagogues were razed or moved, and two mountains of marble were hacked down for the 84-meter (275-foot)-high palace to be built.
But Romanians have come to appreciate the palace; its tenants include the Parliament, the Constitutional Court and the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center, which fights crime, smuggling and fraud. Ceausescu had intended for it to house the presidency along with other government units.
The late pop star Michael Jackson moonwalked in front of the palace, and former U.S. President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have made speeches there.