The Chrysler Building is an Art Deco skyscraper in New York City, located on the east side of Manhattan at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. Standing at 319 metres (1,047 ft), it was the world's tallest building for 11 months before it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931. However, the Chrysler Building remains the world's tallest brick building. After the destruction of the World Trade Center, it was again the second-tallest building in New York City until December 2007, when the spire was raised on the 365.8-metre (1,200 ft) Bank of America building, pushing the Chrysler Building into third position. In addition, the New York Times Building, which opened in 2007, is exactly level with the Chrysler Building in height.
The Chrysler Building is a classic example of Art Deco architecture and considered by many contemporary architects to be one of the finest buildings in New York City. In 2007, it was ranked ninth on the List of America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.
The Chrysler Building was designed by architect William Van Alen to house the Chrysler Corporation. When the ground breaking occurred on September 19, 1928, there was an intense competition in New York City to build the world's tallest skyscraper. Despite a frantic pace (the building was erected at an average rate of four floors per week), no workers died during the construction of this skyscraper.
Van Alen's original design for the skyscraper called for a decorative jewel-like glass crown. It also featured a base in which the showroom windows were tripled in height and topped by twelve stories with glass-wrapped corners, creating an impression that the tower appeared physically and visually light as if floating on mid-air. The height of the skyscraper was also originally designed to be 246 metres (807 ft). However, the design proved to be too advanced and costly for building contractor William H. Reynolds, who disapproved of Van Alen's original plan.
The design and lease were then sold to Walter P. Chrysler, who worked with Van Alen and redesigned the skyscraper for additional stories; it was eventually revised to be 282 metres (925 ft) tall. As Walter Chrysler was the chairman of the Chrysler Automobile Corporation, various architectural details and especially the building's gargoyles were modeled after Chrysler automobile products like the hood ornaments of the Plymouth; they exemplify the machine age in the 1920s.
Construction commenced on September 19, 1928. In total, almost 400,000 rivets were used and approximately 3,826,000 bricks were manually laid, to create the non-loadbearing walls of the skyscraper. Contractors, builders and engineers were joined by other building-services experts to coordinate construction.
Prior to its completion, the building stood about even with a rival project at 40 Wall Street, designed by H. Craig Severance. Severance increased the height of his project and then publicly claimed the title of the world's tallest building (this distinction excluded structures that were not fully habitable, such as the Eiffel Tower). In response, Van Alen obtained permission for a 56.3-metre (185 ft) long spire and had it secretly constructed inside the frame of the building. The spire was delivered to the site in 4 different sections. On October 23, 1929, the bottom section of the spire was hoisted onto the top of the building's dome and lowered into the 66th floor of the building. The other remaining sections of the spire were hoisted and riveted to the first one in sequential order in just 90 minutes.
As construction was completed on May 28, 1930, the added height of the spire allowed the Chrysler Building to surpass 40 Wall Street as the tallest building in the world and the Eiffel Tower as the tallest structure. It was the first man-made structure to stand taller than 1,000 feet (305 m). Van Alen's satisfaction in these accomplishments was likely muted by Walter Chrysler's later refusal to pay the balance of his architectural fee. In less than a year after it opened to the public on May 27, 1931, the Chrysler Building was surpassed in height by the Empire State Building.
The Chrysler Building is considered a masterpiece of Art Deco architecture. The distinctive ornamentation of the building is based on features that were then being used on Chrysler automobiles. The corners of the 61st floor are graced with eagles, replicas of the 1929 Chrysler hood ornaments; on the 31st floor, the corner ornamentation are replicas of the 1929 Chrysler radiator caps. The building is constructed of masonry, with a steel frame, and metal cladding. In total, the building currently contains 3,862 windows on its facade and 4 banks of 8 elevators designed by the Otis Elevator Corporation. The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
The Chrysler Building is also well renowned and recognized for its terraced crown. Composed of seven radiating terraced arches, Van Alen's design of the crown is a cruciform groin vault constructed into seven concentric members with transitioning set-backs, mounted up one behind each other. The stainless-steel cladding is ribbed and riveted in a radiating pattern with many triangular vaulted windows, transitioning into smaller segments of the seven narrow set-backs of the facade of the terraced crown. The entire crown is clad with silvery "Enduro KA-2" metal, an austenitic stainless steel developed in Germany by Krupp and marketed under the trade name "Nirosta" (a German acronym for nichtrostender Stahl, meaning "rust-proof steel").
When the building first opened, it contained a public viewing gallery on the 71st floor, which was closed to the public in 1945. The private Cloud Club occupied the 66th–68th floors, but closed in the late 1970s. The very top stories of the building are narrow with low sloped ceilings, designed mostly for exterior appearance with interiors useful only to hold radio-broadcasting and other mechanical and electrical equipment. Television station WCBS-TV (Channel 2) originally transmitted from the top of the Chrysler in the 1940s and early 1950s, before moving to the Empire State Building. For many years, WPAT-FM and WTFM (now WKTU) also used the Chrysler Building as a transmission site, but they also moved to the Empire by the 1970s. There are currently no commercial broadcast stations located at the Chrysler Building.
There are two sets of lighting in the top spires and decoration. The first are the V-shaped lighting inserts in the steel of the building itself. Added later were groups of floodlights which are on mast arms directed back at the building. This allows the top of the building to be lit in many colors for special occasions. This lighting was installed by electrician Charles Londner and crew during construction.
In more recent years, the Chrysler Building has continued to be a favorite among New Yorkers. In the summer of 2005, New York's own Skyscraper Museum asked one hundred architects, builders, critics, engineers, historians, and scholars, among others, to choose their 10 favorites among 25 New York towers. The Chrysler Building came in first place as 90% of them placed the building in their top-10 favorite buildings.
The Chrysler Building's distinctive profile has inspired similar skyscrapers worldwide, including One Liberty Place in Philadelphia.
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