A shining example (literally!) of what a skyscraper should look like, the 1930s-era Chrysler Building is architect William van Alen's ode to the automobile - all sleek, shiny surfaces, reflective framework and custom-built ornaments to mirror its owner, Walter P. Chrysler, and his car company, the Chrysler Corporation. Built in 1930, this Art Deco-style masterpiece is a marvel at every turn.
With its streamline shape and chrome exterior of steel with brick facing, the 77-storey Chrysler Building cuts a shimmering swathe through the Manhattan skyline. Vacated by Chrysler years ago, the site is now an office building. The only area inside accessible to tourists is the lobby with its Art Deco-style interior complete with automobile references such as the chrome 'grillwork' features, intricately patterned elevator doors, marble and granite stone flooring and walls and a massive ceiling mural depicting transportation. Indeed, the motoring motif is reflected throughout the exterior of the 319-metre structure with chrome gargoyle-style American eagles (Chrysler's 1920s hood ornament) adorning the corners of the 61st floor, oversize chrome radiator caps decorating the 31st floor and brickwork cars at the foot of the main tower complete with hubcaps.
The elegant shape of the Chrysler Building is topped by a marvellous steel spire with illuminated sunburst motif of tiered crescents and triangular windows which catch the light just so and gained the building the title of the world's tallest skyscraper for just four months until the Empire State Building was completed. The building glows from the sunlight during the day and by night, light fills the triangle windows so the top is illuminated too.
The best way to view the exterior effect of this Art Deco-riffic building in all its glimmering glory is from the corner of Third Avenue and 44th Street. Several walking tours of New York City include the Chrysler Building on their Midtown itineraries, but to visit yourself, take subway lines 4, 5, 6, 7 or S to 42nd Street/Grand Central station. From here, it's a three-minute walk down East 42nd Street and left into Lexington Avenue.