After World War I, growing industrialization increased the appreciation of symmetry, angles, manufacturing, and new materials such as stainless steel and aluminum — features of art deco. Accordingly, architecture shifted from beaux arts to art deco. We looked at three notable buildings constructed following World War I, and all are in the art deco style.
The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world when completed in 1930. It was built and owned by Walter Chrysler, who founded the car manufacturing company that he named after himself. The crown has seven radiating sunbursts clad with stainless steel, topped by a spire. In order to top another building, the spire was secretly assembled in a fire shaft and hoisted to the top and anchored in one and a half hours.
The metal and glass starbursts incorporate triangular windows to form the design, and the starbursts are part of the building structure, instead of stone decorations added to the exteriors of beaux-art buildings.
The lobby has rich, red marble and indirect lighting.
The elevator doors use metal and wood to form designs.
570 Lexington Avenue
The building at 570 Lexington Avenue was the first General Electric Building. GE subsequently relocated to a building at Rockefeller Plaza, so this first GE building is now known by its address. Completed in 1931, 570 Lexington Avenue has 50 stories. The entrance is metal and glass.
A GE clock still hangs on the street corner. The decorations are metal, instead of the stone of the beaux arts style. The red granite walls have parallel grooves for decoration.
The lobby was restored in 1996.
Each elevator entrance is set off with metal on top and grooved stone on the side. The elevator has metal torchieres in the corners.
570 Lexington has a gothic top, representing radio waves.
Empire State Building
Completed in 1931, the Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years.
The spire has metal art deco decorations, but this doesn’t look like the King Kong movies I remember!
The tall lobby is dominated by this metal mural that emphasizes the size of the Empire State Building.
Following World War I, the stone-column and robed-statue decorations of beaux art were replaced with metal and glass of art deco.