Compare and Contrast the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building
Both The Empire State Building and Chrysler Building were constructed in New York (USA) in an era when American cities such as New York and Chicago competed to have the tallest buildings. The Empire State building was the tallest building in the world at the time of its construction, which started on January 21, 1930 and took 410 days to complete. The building remained the tallest office building in the world for 41 years. Nevertheless, the Empire State building lost this status since 1973, when the World Trade Center opened in Manhattan, progressive developers have constructed taller skyscrapers that surpass the building. The “race for the sky” began in the summer of 1929 on the island of Manhattan (Thiel-Siling, 1998). Built during the same period as the Empire building, the Chrysler Building was to become the world’s tallest building before the developers of the former changed their plan to make it the tallest building of the world.
Not was the Chrysler Building the tallest building of the world, it was also one of the most decorated buildings on earth. Bother the building were extensively decorated with their bold structures “declaring the glories of modern age.” The construction of Chrysler Building could have only succeeded in the competitive climate of Manhattan in the 1920s (Stravitz, 2002). The American economy experienced flourishing growth, which increased the demand for office space to go around and encouraged urban developers to aim high. In 1926, Walter P. Chrysler, one of the richest men in the automobile industry informally entered the completion to build the tallest building in New York City (Thiel-Siling, 1998). His aim was to construct an office building that exalted enough to symbolize his astounding ascent to the business world. William Van Alen, a Brooklyn-born architect met Chrysler’s aspiration with a seventy-seven-story building, the first in the world to surpass a height of one thousand feet. Both the Chrysler building and Both the Empire State building were built maily to provide office space for the expanding American economy following the period of industrialization (Thiel-Siling, 1998).
The building of the Eiffel Tower (984 feet) in 1989 in Paris, in a manner, taunted American architects to construct taller buildings. John Jakob Raskob, former president of General Motors decided to join the race when Chrysler had already started building a monumental structure, the height of which was kept secret until completion of the building (Stravitz, 2002). Not knowing what height he had to beat, Raskob started construction of the Empire State building. Unlike Chrysler, Building, construction of Empire building started with the demolition of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to clear the site for construction of the new building. Both the buildings symbolized their city because they were status symbols for the time (Thiel-Siling, 1998). These skyscrapers showed off engineering design skills and superiority. They were both the tales structures at a time, and in both cases, the developer wanted the structures to be the tallest in the world.
The Chrysler building and the Empire State building were designed in the art deco period. The style evolved from many sources. The streamlined styling and the austere shapes of the Bauhaus School combined with icons and patterns taken from classical Greece and Rome, the Far East, Ancient Egypt, Africa, India, and Aztec and Mayan cultures. The features of the art deco buildings include cubic forms, bands of colors, ziggurat shapes, zigzag designs, illusion of pillars, and a strong sense of line (Thiel-Siling, 1998). By the 1930s, art deco evolved and assumed a simpler style into a more simplified style referred to as Streamlined Moderne or art Moderne. They placed emphasis on sleek, curving forms and long horizontal lines. These structures lacked the zigzag design or colorful designs found on earlier art deco architecture.
The Empire State building is a landmark built during the art deco period. It was built after the art deco evolved into a more simplified form that does not feature zigzag art deco design, but the shape still assumed a typical of the art deco style. The Empire State building is stepped like an Aztec or ancient Egyptian pyramid. The spire, designed as a mooring mast for dirigibles, to the building’s height. The Empire State building is composed of multiple shapes from underground to the top. It features a wider base, which is essential a set of rectangular prisms going up the building. The upper floors have pairs of a rectangular prism with rounded corners that take the form of an eight-sided prism. The overall shape of the building forms a tall pyramid when considered from the ground to the top. Likewise, the Chrysler building joins the list of the last skyscrapers in the art deco style (Stravitz, 2002). The Chrysler building takes the shape of a rectangular prism and it has arcs on its crown. This structure also has acute angles on the tip of the triangles (Thiel-Siling, 1998). Additionally, Chrysler building has perpendicular lines and line segments in all sections of the building and has zigzags on the right side. The art deco style has made Chrysler building a landmark today. Art deco draws from the earlier neo-classical but with the application of exotic motifs such as fountain, flora and fauna, typically arranged in geometrical patterns.
The Empire State building cost $40,948,900 including the land and Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the building alone is was $24,718,000 (Thiel-Siling, 1998). It has 102 floors with a height of 1,223 feet (373.2 meters), covering an area of 79,288 square feet (Thiel-Siling, 1998). The structure materials of the Empire State building include glass mast, concrete, chamfered corner, steel mullion, flush windows, and antennae, which extends it height to 1,472 feet (Thiel-Siling, 1998). The materials for the exterior of the building include Indiana granite and limestone, and granite, trimmed with aluminum and chrome-nickel steel from the sixth floor to the top. The materials used in the interior lobby include ceiling high marble imported from Italy, France, and Germany. The Chrysler building cost 20,000,000 and has 77 floors with a height of 1048 feet (329.5 meters) (Thiel-Siling, 1998). The materials used in the structure included bricks, rivets, and structural steel. The building clad white brick and dark grey brickworks used as horizontal decoration to enhance window rows. The steps of the spire, which assumes an eccentric crescent-shaped, were made from stainless steel, as a stylized sunburst motif, and underneath it, gargoyles, steel, depicting American eagles stare over the city. The lower setback of the structure is decorated with sculptures modeled after Chrysler automobile radiator caps, together with ornaments of car wheels.
The Empire State building prides itself as the first of its kind to employ the technique of fast-track construction, a method that is very common today but was new during the early 20th century. This involves beginning the construction before its design is finalized and helps in saving cost and avoids delays. The Empire State building became a model for efficiency considering the limited period in which it was completed. Some parts of the building were assembled outside the site and were only brought for fitting. The structure of the building rose 4.5 stories per week, something that most modern buildings have not been able to achieve.
If the exterior of the Chrysler building enhances the modernity of the skyscraper, the interior is designed to reflect the distant past and position the building among the wonders of the world. The most striking features of the grand lobby are elevator doors, ornamented in marquetry and brass with the lotus flower motif (Wagner, 2003). The discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 had inspired an enthusiasm for exotic and archaic cultures, the design of Chrysler building came at the height of this mania for all things Egyptian (Stravitz, 2002). In addition to lotus decoration, public room in the structure displayed a range of ancient Egyptian motifs intended to suggest the close association of the structure to great pyramids of pharaohs. The lobby ceiling painting records the progress of the tower does construction, implying that the monument to Chrysler has already assumed a place in history equal that of the great pyramids.
The Chrysler Building is also recognized and renowned for its terraced crown. The building features seven radiating terraced arches (Thiel-Siling, 1998). Composed of seven radiating arches, Alen’s design of the crown is a cruciform groin crypt constructed into seven concentric members with transitioning drawbacks, mounted up one at the back of another (Stravitz, 2002). The casing made of stainless steel from Germany is riveted and ribbed in a glowing sunburst pattern that has several triangular vaulted windows, which transition into smaller segments of the seven narrow setbacks of the facade of the terraced crown (Stravitz, 2002). The whole crown is clad using silvery metal an austenitic stainless steel imported from Germany. The upper floors have pairs of a rectangular prism with rounded corners that take the form of an octagonal prism. The shape constitutes an elevated pyramid. In the same way, the Chrysler building is one of the latest skyscrapers in the art deco style.
The crown space of the Chrysler Building contained a public viewing gallery on the 71st floor when the building was first opened, which was later closed to the public. Currently, this is the highest occupied floor in the building, it was a firm managing office space in 1986 (Stravitz, 2002). The private Cloud Club, which was closed in the late 1970s, occupied a three floor high space from the 66th -68th floors. The stories above the 71st floor are mainly designed to enhance the external appearance of the building, while serving mainly as landings for the stairway to the spire (Wagner, 2003). These upper floor stories are rather constricted with sloped ceilings, and are useful only for holding radio-broadcasting and other electrical and mechanical equipment. Television station WCBS-TV initially transmitted from the top of the building in the 1940s before relocating to the Empire State building (Wagner, 2003). For several years, WTFM and WPAT-FM also transmitted from Chrysler Building, but they have also relocated to the Empire State building in the early 1970s (Wagner, 2003). Currently, no commercial broadcasting operates at the Chrysler building.
Another feature of the Chrysler building is the lighting. The building features two sets in the top spires and decoration. The initial ones are the V-shaped lighting inserts in the steel of the building itself (Thiel-Siling, 1998). It allows the top of Chrysler Building to be lit in different colors for various special occasions. This lighting was installed by electrician Londner Charles and his workmen during construction (Wagner, 2003). Chrysler Building has been featured in several movies that have been shot in New York. In the summer of 2005, Skyscraper Museum in New York asked one hundred builders, architects, historians, critics, scholars, and engineers among others, to choose their 10 favorite among 25 New York towers (Thiel-Siling, 1998). The Chrysler Building came first as 90 percent of the participants positioned the building among their list of top ten preferred buildings (Wagner, 2003).
On the contrary, the initial plan of the Empire State building did not include the exterior lighting as in the case of Chrysler building. In 1964, floodlights were added to illuminate the top of Empire State building at night, in colors designed to match seasonally and other events such as Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Bastille Day and Independence Day. For example, floodlights bathed the building in white, red, and blue for several months after the September 11 bombing, then reverted to the standard schedule. However, both buildings use different colors for various occasions. CNN used the top of the Empire State building as a projector for the 2012 United States Presidential election. Unlike Chrysler building, Empire State building’s distinctive art deco spire was initially designed to serve as a mooring mast and depot for dirigibles. The 102nd originally served as a landing platform with a dirigible gangplank. The building had a particular elevator, travelling between 102nd floor and 86th floor, was supposed to transport passengers after checking in at the observation deck on the 86th floor (Wagner, 2003). However, this plan was abandoned after it proved treacherous and unfeasible after a few tests with airships due to the potent updrafts caused by the dimension of the building itself and the lack of anchoring lines tying the other end of the vessel to the ground. The sole aircraft has ever made the attempt to land on the building, as most pilots have said the idea seemed impractical.
The opening of the Empire State building coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, which rendered most of its office space unoccupied for some time. It was further worsened by its poor location on the 34th street, which placed it relatively far from public transportation as Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal were several blocks away, as is the more-recently constructed Port Authority Bus Terminal. However, Chrysler did not experience this problem. In the first year of its operation, Chrysler Building’s observation deck received about 2 million dollars, as much money the owners of Empire State building made in rent that year. The building became profitable in the 1950 when the American economy started picking up. Both buildings offer ample office space to entrepreneurs and consultancy firms in New York. They are some of the most expensive building that offer office space the growing number of businesses.
The Chrysler Building is iconic to New York City because of its shiny peak. Many tourists visit the building, which offers an outstanding skyline view, as well as a display using its fist tool kit. Recently, visitors started viewing the building from outside as well as visit the lobby to get a chance to examine the art deco details and the building’s decorated ceiling mural. However, the rest of the building is leased for business purposes and not available for public viewing. Empire State building on the other hand have observatory on both the 86th floor and 102nd floor open to the public and attracts millions of people annually. Visitors to York can see Empire State building 80 miles into New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts on a clear day. Couples conduct their weddings on the 80th floor of the building and become members of the Empire State Building Wedding Club. Members of the club thereafter receive free admission to the observatory on Valentine’s Day.
The Chrysler Building remained the tallest building in the world for eleven months before it was surpassed by the Empire State building in 1931. It became the second tallest building in New York until December 2007 after the destruction of World Trade Center. Both buildings used the same architectural style, art deco, a style that originated from France. Both buildings were completed in a relatively short period compared to other modern buildings. The Empire State building and Chrysler Building were both constructed in response to demand for office space.
Stravitz, David. The Chrysler Building: Creating a New York Icon, Day by Day. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002. Print.
Thiel-Siling, Sabine, and Wolfgang Bachmann. Icons of Architecture: The 20th Century. Munich: Prestel, 1998. Print.
Wagner, Geraldine B. Thirteen Months to Go: The Creation of the Empire State Building. San Diego, Calif: Thunder Bay Press, 2003. Print.