Photo: Simon Gardiner
The Chrysler Building
The Chrysler Building is an Art Deco skyscraper in New York City, located on the east side of Manhattan in the Turtle Bayarea at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. Standing at 319 meters (1,047 ft), it was the world's tallest building for 11 months before it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931. 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-meter (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.
The Chrysler Building is a classic example of Art Deco architecture and considered by many contemporary architects to beone 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. It was the headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation from 1930 until the mid-1950s, but, although the building was built and designed specifically for the car manufacturer, the corporation did not pay for the construction of it and never owned it, as Walter P. Chrysler decided to pay for it himself, so that his children could inherit it.
The Chrysler Building was designed by architect William Van Alen for a project of Walter P. Chrysler. 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 built 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 12 stories with glass-wrapped corners, creating an impression that the tower appeared physically and visually light as if floating in mid-air. The height of the skyscraper was also originally designed to be 246 meters (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 m (925 ft) tall. As Walter Chrysler was the chairman of the Chrysler
Corporation and intended to make the building into Chrysler's headquarters, 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
The ownership of the building has changed several times. The Chrysler family sold the building in 1947, and in 1957 it was purchased by real-estate moguls Sol Goldman and Alex DiLorenzo, and owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. The lobby was refurbished and the facade renovated in 1978–1979. The building was owned by Jack Kent Cooke, a Canadian born, Washington, D.C. based investor, in 1979. The spire underwent a restoration that was completed in 1995. In 1998, Tishman Speyer Properties and the Travelers Insurance Group bought the Chrysler Building, at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, and the adjoining Kent Building in 1997 for about $220 million from a consortium of banks and the estate of Jack Kent Cooke. Tishman Speyer Properties had negotiated a 150 year lease on the land from Cooper Unionand the college continues to own both the land under the Chrysler Building and the building itself. Cooper Union's name is on the deed.
In 2001, a 75% stake in the building management contract was sold, for US$ 300 million, to TMW, the German arm of anAtlanta-based investment fund. On June 11, 2008 it was reported that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council was in negotiations to buy TMW's 75% economic interest, and a 15% interest from Tishman Speyer Properties in the building, and a share of the Trylons retail structure next door for US$ 800 million. On July 9, 2008 it was announced that the transaction had been completed, and that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council was now the 90% owner of the building.
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.
The Chrysler Building's distinctive profile has inspired similar skyscrapers worldwide, including One Liberty Place in Philadelphia.
Building Sights / BBC2 Short Movies Series
Narrator: John Malkovich