Six things about the Flag on the People’s House in Bucharest

What it costs, who puts it up and how often it is changed.

Among the many legends surrounding the gigantic People’s House, some refer to the flag flying on the highest flank. The flag is not a hologram, it’s not made of metal or from the sail used on boats. No, there isn’t a granite deposit underneath the building that generates currents so strong that the placing of the flag on the roof would be impossible. And no, the flag wasn’t put there because Gheorghe Funar, Romania’s most nationalistic politician, said so.

1. The flag was included in the construction project of The People’s House from the start. It was placed exactly at half the distance between the lateral flanks, projected on an imaginary axis that starts from Alba Iulia Square and stops at the building of the Defense Ministry, right behind the People’s House. The flag flew for approximately one year, between 1988, when the last floor of the building was built, and 1989. The mast was 16 meters high, placed on a concrete octogonal platform 4 meters high and 6 meters wide.

2. After the revolution, the flag was taken down together with the metallic construction that supported it.  (Petre Roman, the first prime minister of the post-communist government, says the reason for takingit down may have been its emblem of the Socialist Republic of Romania. From 1990 to 2002, nobody thought about putting the flag back up. In 1994, the Chamber of Deputies moved into The People’s House. At the same time, Law 75 regarding the carrying of the Romanian flag, the playing of the national anthem and the usage of the seals with the country’s emblem came into effect. The law made placing the flag back on The People’s House compulsory: “The flag should permanently be displayed outside and inside public institutions”. 

3. It was only in 2002, when the platform of the C4 flank was repaired, that the Chamber of Deputies decided to raise the flag again. One of the projects was designed by the chief architect of the building, Anca Petrescu, and included a transparent mast, made of plastic and metal, with an interior elevator illuminated at night. The mast would have been 20 meters high, and the pennant was meant to be either 6×4, either 4×2 meters. It wouldn’t have been “so complicated” to be put into practice, says Petrescu today. But the deputies rejected the idea and chose a simplified project: the 4 meter high octagonal base was cut to 2.5 meters, and the mast was reduced to a steel pole, 21 cm in diameter and 14 meters high.

4. Putting the flag on top of the building and replacing it whenever it’s torn is indeed an endurance test. The person who goes up with the flag has to have good balance, because there is no ladder there. He has to reach the 84 meters high platform and then climb the steel pole using metal props. He puts one prop forward, and then lifts his leg. He keeps moving the props to get to the top, explains Ovidiu Leşcu, former chief of the General Directorate for Development in the Chamber of Deputies. He climbs, takes down the old flag and replaces it with the new one. Many times there is ice on the pole and the wind is very strong, which makes the climbing difficult. Today, there are only three employees fit to complete this task.

5. Finding the proper fabric for the flag was the second stepping stone, since it had to resist the wind’s whipping effect. The rain and the wind (which at that altitude sometimes reaches 100 km/hour) tear apart the red part of the flag, the one at the exterior. The solution came from a military unit, which indicated the necessary technical conditions of the fabric. There were 11 total: the thinness of the stitches, the weight of the fabric and its resistance to hydrostatic pressure. After testing several materials, on the drizzly day of December 27, 2002, the first post-revolutionary flag was placed on the top of the building. Today the pennant is 4.80 meters long and 3.20 meters wide.

6. The colors are established by law: cobalt blue, chrome yellow and red vermilion. In Pantone, the color codes are: 280c, 116c and 186c (these are approximations taken from a French reference book, since the Romanian law doesn’t specify them). From 2002 to 2008, the monthly replacement rate was three flags. Since 2008, the building’s administrators changed the fabric to 100% polyester, which is more resistant because it lets the air pass through. Now the flag is replaced every month and a half, maybe two. It costs between 100 and 300 Lei, or 20 to 70 Euro.

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