Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building – The Architecture of the Art Deco Building

The Chrysler Building in New York City is one of the earliest skyscrapers in the city, and it is also one of the most famous instances of Art Deco architecture. However, where is the Chrysler Building located, when was the Chrysler Building built, and how tall is the Chrysler Building? All of these questions and more will be answered in the below article. Keep reading to learn more about the Chrysler Building!



A Look at the Chrysler Building

ArchitectWilliam Van Alen (1883 – 1954)
Date Constructed1928 – 1930
FunctionOffice building
Materials UsedSteel, brick, and glass
Height319 m (or 1,046 ft)
LocationNew York City, New York, United States

The Chrysler Building in New York is often considered to be one of the most beautiful Art Deco skyscrapers in the city and the world. This famous instance of Art Deco is situated on the East Side of Manhattan and it was, for a very short period of time, the tallest building in the world. It was within less than a year that another Art Deco skyscraper, the Empire State Building, would take its place as the tallest building in the world.

However, despite the Chrysler Building losing its world record status, it has still remained one of the most unique and notable instances of the New York skyline, as well as being one of the earliest skyscrapers in the city.

When the building was first completed and unveiled to the public, it actually received mixed reviews from many different people, but that all started to change as time went on. Within a few short decades, it would become one of the most iconic sights in one of the most iconic cities in the world.

How Tall Is the Chrysler BuildingStages in the design for the Chrysler building, 1929; Whitehead, Russell F. (Russell Fenimore), 1884-1954 (Editor)Clute, Eugene (Editor)Van Alen, William, 1883-1954 (Architect), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Chrysler Building was so named because it was constructed for Walter Chrysler to use as the headquarters for his business. The interesting thing about the involvement of Chrysler is that even though it bears the name of the corporation; it was never funded by the company. Instead, it was funded by the head of the company through his personal wealth so that he could hand it over to his children later down the line.

So, it may have been built for the Chrysler Corporation but it was never actually owned by the famous car company.



The Architectural Characteristics of the Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building’s architectural style, as has been stated, is the Art Deco style that burned brightly in the first half of the 20th century until eventually fading away. Art Deco architecture is a style that transcends architecture alone, and it can be found in creative fields like the visual arts and product design too. It had its earliest origins in France but shifted over to the United States during the Roaring Twenties.

Art Deco architecture is, in many ways, perfect for the Roaring Twenties period as the modern era had truly begun only a decade or so prior, and there needed to be a culmination of the ideas that had been explored as the world entered into the machine age.

It was time for an art style that reflected this new machine-oriented mentality, this industrialization, and move away from natural forms. This style would combine a variety of fields under one roof and so, when applied to architecture, it would incorporate other forms too. Art Deco architecture did not only involve the structure of the building, but also the layout of its interior, the ornaments that adorned the walls, and even some of the seemingly functional elements too, like the elevators. This is why the Chrysler Building architecture used this style.

Chrysler Building in New YorkExterior of the Chrysler building, 2012; L Latumahina, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Chrysler Building in New York, being inherently attached to the Chrysler Corporation, which manufactured cars, would be the perfect structure for such a style. The building made use of modern architectural methods such as the steel frame filled with masonry, the array of machine-age metallic ornaments made to look like Chrysler radiator caps, and also a call to the past with the many gargoyles that harken back to the Gothic cathedrals of old.

This building was the perfect Art Deco structure.


The Exterior of the Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building’s exterior is an example of Art Deco design at its absolute best. The basic design included a steel frame that was actually the first of its kind to be used in the United States, a steel called Nirosta. This type of stainless steel was used throughout the building, such as in the ornaments, crown, needle, and even window frames. This steel would come to be an integral component of the building’s overall construction.

The steel frame allowed the building to reach a greater height than had been used before, but the structure also needed to make use of a setback design. This was not necessarily because this was desired, but rather because this had been mandated by the city itself.

Setbacks allow a building to rise out of the ground in jutted segments that appear like a staircase for giants. It had been the law in the city since 1916 for setback designs to be used for structures that exceeded a certain height, and as the Chrysler Building would go on to be the tallest building in the world for 11 months, it clearly would have surpassed the minimum height required for these setback designs.

When Was the Chrysler Building BuiltA 1930s article from Popular Science magazine on the construction of the Chrysler building; How engineers crowned world’s tallest building (found online at, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

These setbacks occur on the 16th, 18th, 23rd, 28th, and 31st floors of the Chrysler Building. These irregular setbacks have contributed to the building gaining such a pride of place in the New York skyline as it rose out of the ground in a grand fashion. These setbacks also stop on the 31st floor. They only resume on the 60th floor.

This gives the building a spire-like quality, and the roof structure further contributes to that general feeling.

The lowest region of the building, the ground floor exterior section, is covered in a kind of black granite, then three floors above it is covered in white marble before much of the steel and glass sections begin in earnest. This gives the building a distinctly different appearance when viewed from the street versus when it is seen from afar.


The Interior of the Chrysler Building

While the Chrysler Building is best known for its exterior architecture, the interior of the building is also a sight to behold. The interior makes use of soundproof office partitions, which were way ahead of their time, as well as interchangeable sections that allow for the floors to be rearranged according to need. There are also a variety of pipes that run through the interior of the building that carry cables throughout the structure.

The lobby is also an interesting area because it makes use of a triangular floor plan, and this also allows it to have three distinct entrances that connect to the three streets around it.

The doors are made of that same Nirosta steel as the building, the floors are covered in yellow travertine, and the windows allow natural light to fill this space. The use of various expensive materials was used by Chrysler as a means to impress others. This further relates to the way in which the walls of the structure are covered in red granite imported from Africa, and there are wall panels that are richly decorated with the figures of various workers. There is a further marble panel behind the lobby’s desk, and it is framed in Nirosta steel. Even the staircases make use of this steel in their zigzagging railings.

Where Is the Chrysler Building LocatedEntrance to the Chrysler building on 42nd Street; Drflat, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the other modernized elements of the building, which does not appear all that technologically advanced by today’s standards, involved the use of the 32 elevators in the building. There are both standard and express elevators, and these elevators operated at a fast speed for their time at 270 m per minute (which actually went against city regulations, but those regulations were later loosened).

The elevators themselves are also beautifully decorated in Art Deco motifs.


The Ornamentation of the Chrysler Building

One of the most stunning aspects of the Chrysler Building can be found in the various instances of ornamentation that adorn the walls. The exterior of the building, as has been mentioned, is covered in a variety of machine-age icons, such as radiator caps, as well as ancient designs like the many gargoyles that cover the façade of the structure.

These exterior ornamentation elements are further complemented by the crown that tops the building as a whole.

The crown is, like much of the building, covered in Nirosta steel. It is constructed around a ribbed design with various sunburst patterns, which were commonly used in many instances of Art Deco art and architecture, and the crown was further decorated with a design reminiscent of the spokes of a wheel. This crown has provided the Chrysler Building with one of the most stunning façades in the history of all skyscrapers. It is utterly unique in its execution and remains one of the most beautiful instances of Art Deco design.

Chrysler Building DecorationA close-up of one of the hood pieces that decorate the exterior of the Chrysler building; Andrés Nieto Porras from Palma de Mallorca, España, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Aside from the crown, there are also façade designs between the 24th and 27th floors, and these designs make use of zigzag motifs that run horizontally around the building. Whereas on the 31st floor, there are various Nirosta steel decorations that are made to look like hood ornaments from cars (which calls the Chrysler Corporation to mind).

Altogether, this use of machine-age Art Deco designs has led to the exterior ornamentation of the Chrysler Building being some of the most stunning in the world.


The Observation Deck of the Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building is also known for its stunning observation deck. This observation deck was located on the 71st floor, and it was called “Celestial”. However, while it allowed spectators to view the city from very high up, the construction of the Empire State Building and its own observation deck led to the Chrysler Building’s version losing all of its clientele as it was no longer the highest observation deck in the city. This particular observation deck closed in 1945, and ever since 1986, it has been used as the office of an architectural firm called Harvey Morse and Cowperwood Interests.

So, it does still see use, but it has simply lost the initial function that it once possessed because of the appearance of a taller structure with an even higher observation deck.



The History of the Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building started its life in the midst of the Roaring Twenties. The Chrysler Corporation, a large car manufacturer, had grown exponentially over the course of the decade and needed a new headquarters somewhere in New York City. The city was chosen because there was a building boom and everyone wanted to be a part of it. The Chrysler Building was simply one of the many Art Deco skyscrapers that would crop up in the region, and it would become one of the most gorgeous instances of this style.


The Design and Construction of the Chrysler Building

The structure that would become the Chrysler Building was originally part of the design of someone else entirely, William H. Reynolds. He was a senator and real-estate developer, and this would have led to the building becoming the Reynolds Building had this proceeded. He would also hire the architect who would go on to complete the design, William Van Alen.

The structure was subsequently heightened in the plans on several occasions before it finally reached the planned height that it would eventually attain.

Chrysler Building ArchitectureA view of the Chrysler Building in New York City; randreu, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This plan would lead it to become the tallest building in the city by far, and while Van Alen did design practically all of it, Reynold did insist that the building have a crown structure. This was something that Van Alen, at first, opposed, but later accepted (and as it became one of the most notable pieces of the New York City skyline, it was likely a good decision. By 1930, the Chrysler Corporation had announced that it would take over many of the offices that were available in the building and, at the same time, they also secured the naming rights. Some additions were made to the structure’s decoration in accordance with this new information.

The building would go on to become an integral part of the Chrysler Corporation for years to come, but in the modern era, the corporation no longer has a role in the building.


The Ownership of the Chrysler Building

After Walter Chrysler died in 1940, the building went to his family. It was eventually sold in 1953 to William Zechendorf, who then eventually sold it in 1960 to Sol Goldman and Alex DiLorenzo. They implemented the first polishing of the steel elements in the structure in an attempt to coax new tenants into the building, but they eventually defaulted on their mortgage, but the building was at least about 83% occupied at the time.

The building would then be acquired by Massachusetts Mutual, and under their watch, the building was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Art Deco StyleThe stainless steel sheets on the top of the Chrysler building; VillageHero from Ulm, Germany, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, at around the same time, Texaco, which was one of the biggest tenants, decided to leave the building and leave vast swaths of the building entirely vacant. This led to the company’s decision to renovate in a renewed attempt to bring in new tenants. However, even though the building was 96% occupied, the company ultimately sold it to Jack Kent Cooke in 1979. He would go on to redesign the interior, elevators, and lighting. However, he then sold it in 1997 to Tishman Speyer Properties and the Travelers Insurance Group.

They, once again, renovated the building as part of the new Chrysler Center commercial complex (this involved the use of several different buildings in the district all maintaining similar branding).

A 75% stake in the building was later sold in 2001 to TMW, and by 2008, part of it had been acquired by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. The building changed hands so many times over the decades that its name and its connection to the Chrysler Corporation no longer truly make any sense but have been retained because of its long-standing association with the building.


The Chrysler Building in the Present Day

The Chrysler Building would continue as one of the most famous landmarks in New York City even as it changed hands in 2019 once again, this time by Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding LLC (alongside the Austrian SIGNA Group). These new owners have attempted to bring new tenants back into the building after the coronavirus pandemic led to the evictions of some of the companies within the building’s walls. The effects of this have yet to be seen, but the building itself has managed to remain one of the most stunning sights in the city despite the constant changing of ownership and any rental woes that happen to occur.

At present, there are still many companies that have situated their offices within the Chrysler Building, such as InterMedia Partners, the YES Network, Outfront Media, Troutman Sanders, and others.

Art Deco BuildingView of the Chrysler Building in Manhattan, New York City; Reinhold Möller, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Chrysler Building may not have retained its position as the tallest building in the world or as the most famous Art Deco structure in the city, but it has remained one of the most stunning examples of this form to have ever been created. The Chrysler Building, while no longer having anything at all to do with the Chrysler Corporation, will likely remain a New York City landmark for decades to come.


We have come to the end of our look at the Chrysler Building in New York City. This famous example of Art Deco architecture has gone on to become one of the most famous instances of this style in the city and the world. Over the course of this article, we have examined the Chrysler Building architecture and its history, so we hope that you have learned a good deal about this beautiful Art Deco skyscraper. All that’s left for us to do is to wish you a great day/week/month ahead!




Frequently Asked Questions


Where Is the Chrysler Building Located?

The Chrysler Building is a notable New York City landmark so it can, obviously, be found in New York City. To be more specific, it is located on the East Side of Manhattan. The Chrysler Building has become one of the most famous parts of the New York City skyline, and even though it has long been replaced as the tallest building in the world, it is still a stunning part of New York’s skyline.


When Was the Chrysler Building Built?

The Chrysler Building’s construction started in 1928 and came to an end by 1930. For those familiar with their history, this means that it was finished the year after the Great Crash occurred. This would lead to the Great Depression, an economic downturn that had far-reaching effects. One of those effects was its negative impact on the Chrysler Building itself.


How Tall Is the Chrysler Building?

The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world for a whole 11 months before the Empire State Building stole that title, and then held onto it for decades. However, even though it lost the status of the tallest building very quickly, it is still a massive structure at 319 m (or 1,046 ft) in height. Regardless of losing the general record for the tallest building, it has retained the record for the tallest brick and steel framework building in the world.


What Architectural Style Does the Chrysler Building Adopt?

The Chrysler Building adopted the Art Deco style, that was so prevalent in the early 20th century in the United States. This style is characterized by an adoration of machine-age imagery alongside a combination of architectural elements with other artistic characteristics. The Chrysler Building is covered in machine-inspired ornamentation from the modern era as well as other elements, like the exterior gargoyles, that harkens back to far older times.


How Long Was the Chrysler Tower the Tallest Building?

The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world for 11 months. It replaced the Eiffel Tower as the tallest building in the world in 1928, which had been the tallest since 1889. This Art Deco skyscraper was later replaced by the Empire State Building in 1931, a record it went on to retain for several decades.


Cite this Article

Justin, van Huyssteen, “Chrysler Building – The Architecture of the Art Deco Building.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. May 30, 2023. URL:

van Huyssteen, J. (2023, 30 May). Chrysler Building – The Architecture of the Art Deco Building. artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source.

van Huyssteen, Justin. “Chrysler Building – The Architecture of the Art Deco Building.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source, May 30, 2023.

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