The Chrysler Building in New York: Architecture and History

4:49 pm  |  29.08.2021

The Chrysler Building is “only” the sixth tallest building in New York – for many architecture fans it is not only the most beautiful skyscraper in the city but even in the world. The Art Deco style facade and lace make the 1930s skyscraper really distinctive. Here you get all the information.

It was an ambitious plan that Walter P. Chrysler tried to put into practice at the end of the 1920s. As the representative headquarters of his automobile company, he wanted to create nothing less than the tallest building in the world. And thus contest the Woolworth Building’s record.

With the architect, William van Alen he had the right “partner in crime”. Van Alen’s former partner was also planning the “tallest building in the world” for the Bank of Manhattan. You can find out who ultimately won this competition below.

Tour the Chrysler Building in New York

Today, there are several towers in Manhattan that loosely tower over the Chrysler Building. However, only a few are considered as iconic as the Chrysler Building. While the Art Deco-style building found at least as many enemies as it did friends around 1930, the design with embellishments of hubcaps and steel gargoyles reminiscent of hood ornaments is undisputed today as a masterpiece and classic of the modern age.

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It is also a popular motif in numerous Hollywood films, from Armageddon to Men in Black. You can also see it in the iconic opening credits of Sex and the City. If you’re exploring the East Side, don’t miss the Chrysler Building.

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The Architectural Style of the Chrysler Building

The Art Deco facade of the Chrysler Building is truly breathtaking. The tower made of white brick is adorned not only by several protrusions but also by various design elements. They are still used today as a distinguishing feature of the Chrysler Group.

In addition to the gargoyles in the style of the Chrysler hood ornament at the time, this also includes decorations in the masonry itself, which on closer inspection represent hubcaps. Another highlight is the stainless steel dome with numerous triangular windows. The huge spire makes the Chrysler Building the largest brick building in the world to this day.

Get a glimpse of the Chrysler Building

The entrance to the Chrysler Building with its staggered, streamlined window panes is also a real eye-catcher. But it is only a small foretaste: decorations in chrome and marble as far as the eye can see.

Unfortunately, your tour of the Chrysler Building is already over in the lobby. The viewing platform of the Chrysler Building with a view over the whole of New York was closed in 1945. The elevators to the upper floors only lead to offices – so access is prohibited.

However, there is a dental practice on the 69th floor. Brave people who book an appointment here may enjoy a root canal treatment with a spectacular view.

The Chrysler Building as the Tallest Building in the World

As you might have guessed: Of course, the builder Walter P. Chrysler and the architect William Van Alen won the “battle” for the title of the tallest building in the world. But, in a spectacular way. After the Tower of the Bank of Manhattan was completed in April 1930 and towered over both the Chrysler Building and the Woolworth Building, the matter initially seemed clear.

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At least until van Alen had the iconic 38 meters long top of the Chrysler Building installed on his building in a night-and-fog operation, which had been prefabricated under strict secrecy in the basement of the building. 

It was placed in less than 2 hours – and the Chrysler Building was given the title of the tallest building in the world! It was even the first building in the world to exceed the 300-meter mark.

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But the joy of the record did not last too long: A short time later, the Chrysler Building lost the title to the Empire State Building. Today the iconic building – together with the New York Times Building – ranks sixth in the ranking of the tallest buildings in New York. It is surpassed by the One World Trade Center, 432 Park Avenue, Empire State Building, Bank of America Tower, and, more recently, the Three World Trade Center.

The Chrysler Building Today

Chrysler sold the building again as early as 1953, as it quickly became too small as a company headquarters for the expanding group. The building went through several hands; most recently it was 90% owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council.

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At the end of 2018, the surprising announcement followed that the Austrian investor and Karstadt owner René Benko would take over the building together with partners. Rumor has it that the office building will then be converted into a hotel.

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