Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chrysler Building

A monument to modern times and the mighty automotive industry, the former Chrysler headquarters wins many a New Yorker's vote for the city's most iconic and beloved skyscraper (the world's tallest for 40 days until the Empire State Building stole the honor).

Architect William Van Alen, who designed this 1930 Art Deco masterpiece, incorporated car details into its form: American eagle gargoyles made of chromium nickel sprout from the 61st floor,  resembling carhood ornaments used on 1920s Chryslers; winged urns festooning the 31st floor reference the car's radiator caps. Most breathtaking is the pinnacle, with tiered crescents and spiked windows that radiate out like a magnificent steel sunburst.

View it at sunset to catch the light gleaming off the tip. Even better, observe it at night, when its peak illuminates the sky like the backdrop to a Busby Berkeley musical. The inside is off limits apart from the amazing time capsule lobby replete with chrome "grillwork," intricately patterned wood elevator doors, marble walls and floors, and an enormous ceiling mural saluting transportation and the human endeavor. 405 Lexington Ave., at E.42st., Midtown East

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