William Van Alen was an American architect, best known for designing New York City’s, art-deco Chrysler Building. Van Alen had failed to enter into a contract with Walter Chrysler when he received the Chrysler Building commission. After the building was completed, Van Alen requested payment of 6 percent of the building’s construction budget ($14 million), a figure that was the standard fee of the time. After Chrysler refused payment, Van Alen sued him and won, eventually receiving the fee. The lawsuit significantly depreciated his reputation as an employable architect. His career effectively ruined by this and further depressed by the Great Depression, Van Alen focused his attention on teaching sculpture.
The Chrysler Building
The Prima Donna of all skyscrapers remains the belle of New York’s skyline. For many, the Chrysler Building epitomizes the style that came to be called Art Deco. The Chrysler Building is also renowned and recognized for its terraced crown. Composed of seven radiating terraced arches, Van Alen’s design of the crown is a cruciform groin vault constructed into seven concentric members with transitioning setbacks, mounted up one behind another. The stainless-steel cladding is ribbed and riveted in a radiating sunburst pattern with many triangular vaulted windows. The entire crown is clad with silvery “Enduro KA-2” metal, an austenitic stainless steel developed in Germany by Krupp and marketed under the trade name “Nirosta” (a German acronym for nichtrostender Stahl, meaning “non-rusting steel”).
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). Less than a year after it opened to the public on May 27, 1930, 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.
About the Author:
Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.