Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Chrysler Building - New York City

And now for something completely different. A little architecture. My sisters and I grew up with an awareness of architecture. Our dad was an architect. And growing up in New York certainly exposed us to a lot of beautiful architecture - and ugly architecture. I remember when the World Trade Center built my dad would rant on how ugly it was. Two tall skinny boxes. (Not only that,for the first several months shadowy images of the 2 buildings would appear on our tv screen).Compare those buildings with the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. These 2 Art Deco buildings are just plain beautiful. I was going to write about the Empire State Building. It has always had a special place in our family. My mother worked for the architects -Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon (15 years after it was built) but I have to admit I prefer the Chrysler building.
The Chrysler Building was finished just months before the Empire State Building. It was built between 1928-1930 (the Emp St B was finished in 1931). It is located at 405 Lexington Ave (corner of 42nd St.).There are 77 floors, 319.5m (1048 feet) high, 29961 tons of steel, 3,826,000 bricks, near 5000 windows. Cost: $ 20,000,000. The style is Art Deco. The architect was William Van Alen.
Art Deco was a style popular from about 1925 -1939. It appeared in all of the decorative arts - architecture, interior design, furniture- as well as in the visual arts, including fashion, film, and painting. It is based on geometrical shapes. Often materials such as aluminium,stainless steel, lacquer, and inlaid wood, as well as exotic materials, such as sharkskin and zebraskin, were used. Sweeping curves, sunbursts,chevron patterns, stepped forms are all common in the design.

"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. Architecture in the Twentieth Century. p209.

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