New York City Guide

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Chrysler Building

Located at 405 Lexington Avenue (between 42nd and 43rd streets) the Chrysler Building is one of New York's most recognizable landmarks, and so has become a major tourist attraction. Though never occupied by the Chrysler car company, the Art Deco building remains firmly associated with the auto-giant. The spire resembles a car radiator grill with a series of triangular windows.

The design, originally drawn up for building contractor William H. Reynolds, was finally sold to Walter P. Chrysler, who wanted a provocative building which would not merely scrape the sky but positively pierce it. Its 77 floors briefly made it the tallest building in the world until the Empire State Building was completed. It became, and in many peoples opinion, remains the star of the New York skyline, as today, the Chrysler Building is recognized as New York City's greatest display of Art Deco, a decorative style characterized by sharp angular or zigzag surface forms and ornaments.

At the time of its construction, the Chrysler Building was involved in a race to be the tallest building in the world. The Bank of Manhattan Building, under construction at the same time, topped out at 927 feet, two feet above the Chrysler's announced height. It appeared that the Bank of Manhattan had won, but the architect, William van Alen had a plan: the Chrysler Building's spire, a series of sunbursts punctuated by triangular windows, had been secretly assembled in the building's fire shaft. Suddenly, it was hoisted into place in one 27 ton piece, raising the Chrysler Building's height to 1046 feet, 119 feet taller than the Bank of Manhattan and even taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

It was one of the first large buildings to use metal extensively on the exterior. The Chrysler Building was largely panned by critics at the time for its supposedly "frivolous" decoration, straying from strict functionalist modernism. For example it has vast silver coloured gargoyles near its summit shaped in the form of eagles. The general public, however, quickly regarded it with admiration and affection. With time it came to be regarded by many as the finest architectural expression of the boom times of the 1920s which came to an abrupt end with the crash of 1929.

Chrysler Building 4The three storeys high, upwards tapering entrance lobby has a triangular form, with entrances from three sides, Lexington Avenue, 42nd and 43rd Streets. The lobby is clad in different marbles, onyx and amber. Decorated with Egyptian motifs, it boasts a ceiling fresco by Edward Trumbull entitled "Transport and Human Endeavour" that depicts buildings, airplanes, and scenes from the Chrysler assembly line. A stairwell to the mezzanine and basement levels has a very attractive Art Deco chrome banister and walls similar to the lobby.

Chrysler Building 1 Chrysler Building 2 Chrysler Building 3