Chrysler Building

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Chrysler Building
Chrysler Building by David Shankbone.jpg

Chrysler Building was the world's tallest building from 27 May 1930 to 1931.*
Preceded by 40 Wall Street
Surpassed by Empire State Building

405 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan, NY, United States Chrysler Building 405 Lexington Avenue Manhattan NY United States

Status Complete
Constructed 1929-1930
Antenna/Spire 318.9 m (1,046 ft)
Roof 282.0 m (925 ft)
Top floor 274.0 m (899 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 77
Floor area 1,195,000 sq ft (111,000 m2)
Elevator count 32
Architect William Van Alen
Owner Flag of the United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi Investment Council (75%) <br\ />

Flag of the United States Tishman Speyer (25%) [1]

*Fully habitable, self-supported, from main entrance to highest structural or architectural top; see the list of tallest buildings in the world for other listings.
colspan="2" style="font-size: larger; Template:NRHP color text-align: center" | Chrysler Building
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Location: 405 Lexington Avenue Manhattan, NY
Built/Founded: 1931
Architect: William Van Alen
Architectural style(s): Art Deco
Designated as NHL: December 8, 1976[2]
Added to NRHP: 1976[3]
NRHP Reference#: 75001237
Governing body: Local

The Chrysler Building is an Art Deco skyscraper in New York City, located on the east side of Manhattan in the Turtle Bay area at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. Standing at 319 metres (1,047 ft),[4][5] 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.[6][7] 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 Tower, 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.[8]

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.[9]


The Chrysler Building in 1932
View from Empire State Building, 2005
Chrysler Building and eastern Midtown Manhattan

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.[10][11] 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.[12]

Design beginnings

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.[13] The height of the skyscraper was also originally designed to be 246 metres (807 ft).[12] However, the design proved to be too advanced and costly for building contractor William H. Reynolds, who disapproved of Van Alen's original plan.[14] 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.[12] As Walter Chrysler was the chairman of the Chrysler Automobile Corporation,[12] 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 (see below).[15][16]


Construction commenced on September 19, 1928.[12] In total, almost 400,000 rivets were used[12] and approximately 3,826,000 bricks were manually laid, to create the non-loadbearing walls of the skyscraper.[17] 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[18] (this distinction excluded structures that were not fully habitable, such as the Eiffel Tower[19]). In response, Van Alen obtained permission for a 56.3-metre (185 ft) long spire[20] and had it secretly constructed inside the frame of the building. The spire was delivered to the site in 4 different sections.[21] 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.[22]


As construction was completed on May 28, 1930,[12] 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.[23] 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 land on which the Chrysler Building stands was donated to The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art,[24] a private college that offers every admitted student a full tuition scholarship, in 1902. The land was leased to the Chrysler Corporation to construct the building in 1929.[24] The land and the building continue to be owned by the college;[25] however, the lease has changed several times. In 1957, it was leased to real-estate moguls Sol Goldman and Alex DiLorenzo, and later leased to the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. The lobby was refurbished and the facade renovated in 1978–1979.[26] The building was leased by Jack Kent Cooke, a Washington, D.C. investor, in 1979. The spire underwent a restoration that was completed in 1995. In 1998, The Cooper Union leased the building to Tishman Speyer Properties and the Travelers Insurance Group. In 2001, a 75% stake in the lease of the building was sold, for US$ 800 million, to TMW, the German arm of an Atlanta-based investment fund.[27] On June 11, 2008 it was reported that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council was in negotiations to buy TMW's 75% economic interest in the building and a share of the Trylons retail structure next door for US$ 800 million.[28] On July 9, 2008 it was announced that the transaction had been completed, and that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council was now the owner of the building.[29]


Detail of the Art Deco ornamentation at the crown

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;[30] on the 31st floor, the corner ornamentation are replicas of the 1929 Chrysler radiator caps.[31] 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.[12] The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.[2][32]

Crown ornamentation

The Chrysler Building is also well renowned and recognised 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.[33] 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").[34][35]

Crown usage

When the building first opened, it contained a public viewing gallery on the 71st floor, which was closed to the public in 1945. This floor is now the highest-occupied floor, most recently occupied by an office space management firm.[36] The private Cloud Club occupied a three-floor high space from the 66th–68th floors, but closed in the late 1970s. Above the 71st floor, the stories of the building are designed mostly for exterior appearance, functioning mainly as landings for the stairway to the spire. Very narrow with low, sloped ceilings, these top stories are useful only for holding radio-broadcasting and other mechanical and electrical equipment.[12] 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.[12] 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.[12]

Recognition and appeal

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.[37]

The Chrysler Building's distinctive profile has inspired similar skyscrapers worldwide, including One Liberty Place in Philadelphia.[38][39]

Cultural depictions

As an iconic part of the New York City skyline, the Chrysler Building has been depicted countlessly in almost every medium—film, photography, video games, art, advertising, music, literature, and even fashion, as its use quickly establishes without doubt the location in which the depicted events are occurring.

In the music scene, Meat Loaf's 1993 album Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell's cover art depicts a demonic bat clinging to the top floors of the Chrysler Building. The artwork was by done by Michael Whelan.[40] The Chrysler building is widely known to be depicted in many films, such as Deep Impact (1998), where a wall of water surrounds the skyscraper and people can be seen on the 61st-floor observation deck fleeing to the other side of the building.[41] The tower was also prominently featured and being destroyed in the 1998 film, Godzilla[41], and in Armageddon, which featured the tower being struck by a meteor and its spire came crashing to the ground.[41] In another film, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, while Johnny Storm chases the Silver Surfer through Manhattan, the Silver Surfer flies straight through the Chrysler Building.[42][43] Towards the end of Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, the Chrysler Building is seen totally underwater as the aliens guide their spacecraft through the submerged ruins of Manhattan.[41] In the film Spider-Man, Spider-Man perches on top of one of the building's gargoyles, mourning a beloved relative's murder.[41]

The Chrysler Building has also appeared in numerous video games such as Grand Theft Auto IV, being replicated as the "Zirconium Building".[44][45]


"Art Deco in France found its American equivalent in the design of the New York skyscrapers of the 1920s. The Chrysler Building ... was one of the most accomplished essays in the style."
John Julius Norwich, in The World Atlas of Architecture
"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 making it the highest building in the world—at least until the Empire State Building was completed—it became the star of the New York skyline, thanks above all to its crowning peak. In a deliberate strategy of myth generation, Van Alen planned a dramatic moment of revelation: the entire seven-storey pinnacle, complete with special-steel facing, was first assembled inside the building, and then hoisted into position through the roof opening and anchored on top in just one and a half hours. All of a sudden it was there—a sensational fait accompli."
Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser, in Architecture in the Twentieth Century
"One of the first uses of stainless steel over a large exposed building surface. The decorative treatment of the masonry walls below changes with every set-back and includes story-high basket-weave designs, radiator-cap gargoyles, and a band of abstract automobiles. The lobby is a modernistic composition of African marble and chrome steel."
Elliot Willensky and Norval White, in AIA Guide to New York



  • Skyscrapers, Antonino Terranova, White Star Publishers, 2003 (ISBN-8880952307)
  • The Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon Day by Day, D Stravitz, Princeton Architectural Press Publishers, 2002 (ISBN-10: 1568983549)


  1. "InBev to buy Anheuser-Busch for $52B". 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Chrysler Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 
  3. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  4. "Map." Turtle Bay Association. Retrieved on January 25, 2009.
  5. The Chrysler Building –
  6. The World's Tallest Brick Building –
  7. A view from Above – The Chrysler Building
  8. Emporis Data – See Tallest buildings Ranking
  10. Emporis Data "...a celebrated three-way race to become the tallest building in the world."
  11. The Manhattan Company –; "...'race' to erect the tallest tower in the world."
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 University of Wisconsin-Madison; School of Engineering – The Chrysler Building
  13. The Silver Spire; How two men's dreams changed the skyline of New York Paragraph 8. Author: James E. Beyer, American Institute of Architects
  14. – Chrysler Building
  15. "Chrysler Building". Retrieved on 2008-10-11. 
  16. Emporis Data
  17. The Chrysler Building, Creating a New York icon, day by day. Pages 54, 158, image caption no.39 ISBN 1-56898-354-9
  18. Emporis Data – See source no.4 line 4; "Briefly held the world's tallest title until it was eclipsed by the spire of Chrysler Building."
  19. CTBUH – Criteria of World's Tallest Building
  20. The Chrysler Building, Creating a New York icon, day by day. Page 161. Image caption no.39 – ISBN 1-56898-354-9
  21. The Chrysler Building, Creating a New York icon, day by day. Page 161, image caption no.54 ISBN 1-56898-354-9
  22. The Chrysler Building, Creating a New York icon, day by day. Pages xiii (Paragraph 10) and 161. Image caption no.39 – ISBN 1-56898-354-9
  23. "How two men's dreams changed the skyline of New York". 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Cooper Union and Chrysler Building
  25. The New York Times – Cooper Union
  26. "An enduring hood ornament". 
  27. "German Group Buys Stake In Skyscraper". 
  29. "New York's Chrysler Building Bought by Abu Dhabi Fund". 
  30. Unaccredited image
  31. 1926 Chrysler Radiator Cap Used On The Chrysler Building
  32. Carolyn Pitts (August, 1976) (PDF), National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Chrysler Building, National Park Service,  and Accompanying 1 photo, exterior, undatedPDF (164 KB)
  33. The City – Chrysler Building by AIA Carter B. Horsley
  34. "The Silver Spire". 
  35. Article: Trade names associated with stainless steels
  36. [1]
  37. "In a City of Skyscrapers, Which Is the Mightiest of the High? Experts Say It's No Contest", The New York Times, September 1, 2005. Accessed April 8, 2008.
  38. The NY Times ARCHITECTURE VIEW; Giving New Life to Philadelphia's Skyline. Paragraph 6, line 4, Quote: "...The tower resembles nothing so much as the Chrysler Building..."
  39. University of Wisconsin-Madison; School of Engineering – One Liverty Place; Slide 18, Building Materials
  40. A demonic bat on the top of the Chrysler Building
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 41.4 The NY Times – In the Background, but No Bit Player
  42. Yahoo! Movies: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
  43. Movielocationguide – Rise of the Silver Surfer filming location
  44. Paragraph 3, Hilary Goldstein, Chief News and Features Editor, quoted: "...with numerous identifiable landmarks, including the Chrysler Building..."
  45. Grand Theft Auto IV – Liberty City real World comparisons

See also

External links

Preceded by
Eiffel Tower
World's tallest structure
1930 – 1931
Succeeded by
Empire State Building
Preceded by
40 Wall Street
Tallest building in the world
1930 – 1931
Tallest building in the United States
1930 – 1931
Tallest building in New York City
1930 – 1931
  1. REDIRECT Template:National Register of Historic Places

simple:Chrysler Building