Located at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, 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.
Reaching a height of 1,046 feet (318.9 m), it was the first man-made structure to stand taller than 1,000 feet (305 m) and was the world's tallest building for 11 months before it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931.
The building was designed by William Van Alen and was built specifically to be the headquarters of the car manufacturer The Chrysler Corporation, although the Corporation did not pay for its construction and never owned it. Instead, the building was paid for personally by Walter P. Chrysler in order that his children could inherit it. Although it was seldom used by Mr. Chrysler, he did keep an office and an opulent private apartment on the top floor, and he liked to boast of having the highest toilet (rest room) in Manhattan.
Originally, the Chrysler Building was intended to be the Reynolds Building, built by State Senator and developer William H. Reynolds. The project was started in 1921 but was followed by several years of delay and an acrimonious dissolvement of the partnership that was intended to design and construct the building. Although, after several changes to the plans, work finally began in September of 1928. Reynolds did not have the financing to carry on construction, however, and sold the project to Walter Chrysler for $2 million on October 15, 1928. Demolition of what had been built began on that date and was completed on November 9 of that year. Chrysler's plans for the building were similar to Reynolds', but with the 808-foot building having 68 floors instead of 67.
The excavation of the 69-foot-deep (21 m) foundation began in mid-November 1928 and was completed in mid-January 1929. Construction of the building itself began on January 21, 1929 and progressed very quickly. Despite the speed of construction, work of about four floors per week, no workers died during the construction of the building’s steelwork.
The plans for the Chrysler Building entailed a ground-floor pedestrian arcade, a facade of stone below the fifth floor, a brick-and-terracotta facade above, and a "three-story observation dome" with "bronze and glass" at the top. Changes instigated by Chrysler also involved the redesign of the building to increase its height to 925 ft (282 m), which would make it taller than the Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan, which was the world's tallest at the time at 792-foot (241 m). On October 16, 1929, it officially passed the Woolworth Building in height becoming the world's tallest structure.
The Chrysler Building is renowned and recognised for its terraced crown, this is composed of seven radiating terraced arches. The stainless-steel cladding is ribbed and riveted in a radiating sunburst pattern with triangular vaulted windows.
When the building first opened, it contained a public viewing gallery on the 71st floor, but this was closed to the public in 1945. This floor is now the highest occupied floor of the Chrysler Building. Above the 71st floor, the stories of the building are designed mostly for exterior appearance. These top stories are very narrow with low, sloped ceilings, and are used only for holding mechanical and electrical equipment
As the building was originally intended to be the Chrysler Corporation's headquarters, various architectural details were modelled after Chrysler automobile products. These included the building's gargoyles on the 31st floor and the eagles on the 61st floor, which resemble an old Chrysler hood ornament, these were to signify the machine age of the 1920s.
The emphasis on the machine age is a theme which is taken up in the building’s lobby, which is lined with African marble. It is filled with Art Deco triangles, sharp angles, slightly curved lines, chrome detailing, and a multitude of patterns. The ceiling is covered with murals and contains one of the world’s largest ceiling murals. The Murals provide a tribute to the age in which it was erected, depicting scenes of the workers that created the building, as well as tributes to the age of flight. The lobby certainly gives a feeling of opulence.