Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building (76)

If you find yourself on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 42th street, get ready to discover a stunning Art Deco masterpiece:  the Chrysler Building. A stunning building, considered by many to be the crown jewel of New York skyscrapers.

Designed by William Van Alen, funded by the billionaire Walter Percy Chrysler and built between 1928 and 1930, the building is captivating not only due to its visual impact and interior riches, but also due to the sheer accomplishment of its construction.

The events date back to 1930, when the city witnessed an epic battle to decide who would manage to erect the tallest building in the world. To achieve this, it was necessary to surpass the New York Woolworth Building (241 metres) and the Eiffel Tower (312 metres). The Bank of Manhattan and the Chrysler Building accepted the challenge.

At first, everything pointed to the Bank of Manhattan winning the battle, as its height surpassed that which had been projected for the Chrysler Building. But Van Alen, the architect of the Chrysler Building, reacted intelligently and won the battle. How did he do it? He added a silver dome formed by several overlapping arches on top of the 65th floor of the building. Arch after arch, the building grew in height surprisingly until, at the last moment, it reached 319 metres with the addition of the building’s emblematic crown, a feat accomplished in just 90 minutes. A majestic steel spire measuring 60 metres and weighing 30 tonnes, designed by Van Alen secretly and constructed within the frame of the building, was hoisted as a single piece onto the top of the tower. So yes: the Chrysler Building won the competition and was crowned the tallest building in the world. With its 77 floors, it was inaugurated on May 27, 1930. The win, however, was short-lived, since the following year the Empire State Building achieved a new record height: 381 metres.

Today, the Chrysler Building has become an architectural icon renowned worldwide, and a magnificent example of the Art Deco style, which originated in Europe but was widely adopted in the United States.  It is an architectural marvel with a huge visual impact, both for the richness of its forms, as well as for the materials used in its construction. 

Among its highlights is its spectacular dome with triangular windows, as well as the steel used in its construction—a special type of steel called Nirosta, which reflects the sun's rays in a unique way. 

Nearly 4 million bricks, approximately 30,000 tons of steel and 20 million dollars were needed to erect this colossal building.

As a curiosity, have a good look at the 30th floor, which is the only one without windows. Instead of windows, there is a two-colour brick wall decorated with car motifs, complete with wheels, metal hubcaps and fenders. The corners are decorated with huge radiator caps from Chrysler cars, inspired by the winged helmet of the god Mercury, the swift messenger of Jupiter.  On the 61th floor you will find the 8 eagle heads designed by Chesley Bonestell, which decorate the floor’s corners. The eagle head is an emblematic symbol that decorates several Chrysler models, such as the hood of the famous 1929 Plymouth. 

It is not by chance that it was featured in the building’s design. Walter Chrysler, the developer of the project, intended the building as a tribute to his greatest passion: cars. And architect Van Alen executed his wishes masterfully.

When you are done admiring the exterior, we encourage you to discover the interior. Although the Chrysler Building unfortunately cannot be visited in full, entry is allowed to its lobby. This is a short visit that is truly worth it. The lobby has been excellently preserved and its interior design is fascinating; we encourage you to discover the design features reminiscent of car parts, hidden throughout the lobby.

Its sleek triangular design, with entrances and exits on its sides, will introduce you to the purest Art Déco style, characterized by simple geometric shapes combined in dynamic configurations.  Moroccan red marble walls, sienna floors, onyx and blue marble mouldings. And, on the roof, a huge mural painted by Edward Trumbull, which pays tribute to progress, manual work, energy and means of transport.

Before you go, do not miss the elevators. They are 32 fascinating works of art, all with an individual design, which stand out for their intricate doors made from 8 varieties of wood coming from different corners of the world, such as Cuba, England and Japan. At the time of their construction, they were the fastest in the world, with speeds of 300 metres per minute.

If you were allowed to take an elevator up to the "needle" of the building, you would discover the luxurious Walter Chrysler suite. And on the floor directly below, you would find a majestic meeting room designed in the purestArt Déco style. In the mid-50s, the Chrysler Corporation moved its offices here. Before that, it was a public viewpoint decorated with planets and stars and Saturn-shaped lamps, and was later converted into a restaurant. For some time now, it has been the headquarters of the Cloud Club, the famous club of American magnates about which you have probably heard many eccentric stories.

If the lobby is not enough and you want to see more, you can always follow in the lead of the "hunters of New York secret spots", who have assured us that it is worth making an appointment with a particular dentist who has his office in one of the higher floors, just to be able to enjoy this fantastic view of Manhattan.

In 1976, the building was declared a National Historic Landmark by UNESCO.

As a curious fact, we will mention that Mr. Chrysler did not pay the architect for his work, because he suspected that he was getting commissions from suppliers and contractors.

It is said that William van Alen could not overcome such a hard blow and took his own life shortly thereafter.

The building been featured in a multitude of films, such as Armageddon, Godzilla, Fantastic 4, The Bonfire of the Vanities... and will probably continue to be featured in many more. Perhaps the most famous scene shot here is the one in which a grieving Spiderman crouches on top of one of the eagles, following the murder of his uncle.

One last recommendation: come visit at sunset when the last rays of sunshine fall upon its steel needle.

The years have gone by but the Chrysler Building continues to shine, standing prouder than ever. And now it is time to go and enjoy one of New Yorkers’ favourite skyscrapers, and perhaps the entire world’s.

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