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S255
Chrysler Building: Race to the Sky

Jeffrey Syken

When the closing of the frontier in the late 19th century put an end to the horizontal expansion of America, a new vertical frontier driven by need, technology, ambition, economics and ego would take its place. In the confines of densely populated cities, the only way to “make the land pay” was to stack floor upon floor and call it a Skyscraper.

Beyond the utilitarian need to build tall buildings, there was the prestige and promotional value to consider as well. The ancient pharaohs of Egypt each in their turn tried to outdo the previous Pharoah’s pyramid in shear size and height; so too would America’s Captains of Industry in that decade of unprecedented economic growth and expansion: the 1920s. The Skyscraper races of the late 1920s and early 1930s concentrated on a sliver of land called Manhattan Island would herald both the beginning and end of The Golden Age of Skyscrapers. Who won or lost those races seems irrelevant today, but the buildings the races created remain highly relevant.

For an industrialist like Walter P. Chrysler, it was only natural to celebrate your success and promote your company’s products with the world’s tallest building, just as Singer and Woolworth had done before. Add to the mix the talents of a progressive architect steeped in the values of the 1925 Paris International Exhibition and the result was an Art Deco masterpiece: The Chrysler Building.

This course includes a multiple choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.


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