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 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 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. 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
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 38-meter (125 ft) long spire and had it secretly constructed inside the frame of the building. The spire was delivered to the site in four 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.
Upon completion, May 20, 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. 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, but the Chrysler Building is still the world’s tallest steel-supported brick building.
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