Reverse-engineering Political Architecture. The House of the People and Its Hidden Social Effects


Celia Ghyka


Călin Dan


  • political architecture
  • Foucault
  • governmentality
  • collective authorship
  • oral history
  • Romanian Communism

The House of the People and the construction of the Bucharest Civic Center are an excellent demonstration of the degree of political involvement in the construction of cities and, more generally, in the regulation of bare life during the last years of communism in Romania. At the same time, by unfolding the complicated layers of the political and looking closer at the complex intertwining of agencies that contributed at this colossal endeavor, a different perspective comes into sight: the micro-scale accumulation of individual narratives, intersections of oral histories stand for a more nuanced, shattered reflection of a multifaceted social reality.

The article is based on the preliminary conclusions of an ongoing research and artistic project entitled “Collective Authorship” that uses the methods of oral history in order to reconstruct a possible social history of political architecture. The reading of the House of the People through the lens offered by Foucault’s theories of governmentality offers a novel understanding about how, in the context of a closed, authoritarian regime, technologies of power proved to work discontinuously, allowing for unexpected accumulations of individual territories of action and reflection.