NYC Architecture: Art Deco

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.

Chrysler Building

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.

spire of Chrysler Building
crown and spire of the Chrysler Building

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.

Chrysler Building lobby has red marble walls
Chrysler Building lobby has red marble walls

The elevator doors use metal and wood to form designs.

Chrysler Building elevators
Chrysler Building elevators with art deco 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.

front door of 570 Lexington Ave.
front door of 570 Lexington Ave.

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.

GE clock at 570 Lexington Ave.
GE clock at 570 Lexington Ave.

The lobby was restored in 1996.

lobby of 570 Lexington Ave.
lobby of 570 Lexington Ave.

Each elevator entrance is set off with metal on top and grooved stone on the side. The elevator has metal torchieres in the corners.

elevator of 570 Lexington Ave.
elevator of 570 Lexington Ave.

570 Lexington has a gothic top, representing radio waves.

Gothic top of 570 Lex, representing radio waves
Gothic top of 570 Lexington Ave., representing radio waves

Empire State Building

Completed in 1931, the Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years.

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

The spire has metal art deco decorations, but this doesn’t look like the King Kong movies I remember!

art deco spire
art deco spire

The tall lobby is dominated by this metal mural that emphasizes the size of the Empire State Building.

lobby decoration of Empire State Building
lobby mural of Empire State Building
art deco elevator doors
art deco elevator doors

Following World War I, the stone-column and robed-statue decorations of beaux art were replaced with metal and glass of art deco.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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