405 Lexington Avenue - New York
Gross surface area: mq 135.135
Floors: 77 above ground and 1 below
Architect: William Van Alen
Designated use: uffici
Tenant: Multi Tenant
Year of purchase: 2005
Year sold: 2008
The Chrysler Building is an undisputed icon of New York architecture and represents the Michelangelo Fund's first major investment in the United States, executed through the Fund's subsidiary, the Michelangelo Real Estate Corporation. The purchase of the shareholding equal to approximately 27% of the Provictor stake, which amounted to 75% of the value of the property, was achieved through the Chrysler Building Investment LLC, the vehicle specifically created for this purpose.
The stake in the property, purchased in 2005 on the basis of a valuation of around $432 million, was sold in July 2008 and possession transferred to the Abu Dhabi Sovereign Wealth Fund for the sum of $800 million. An undisputed icon of the European Art Déco style of architecture, the Chrysler Building stands in the heart of Manhattan next to Midtown's Grand Central Station. In the lot between Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, the architect William Van Alen (born in Brooklyn in 1882 and who studied at the École des Beaux Arts of Paris) was commissioned to prepare a first set of plans for the building by senator and property manager William H. Reynolds. In 1928 the project was bought by the automobile industry magnate, Walter P. Chrysler, who wanted a prestigious head office for his company and asked Van Alen to modify the original plans to make it the tallest building in the world.
The race between the Chrysler Building and its rival, the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building in Wall Street, for the record for the tallest building, became the stuff of legend. It appeared that the Bank of Manhattan building, designed by Craig Severance, an ex-partner of Van Alen's would win the race by just two feet but they hadn't taken into account the surprise Chrysler and Van Alen had reserved for them. Just after the celebrations for the opening of the Wall Street building, they erected a 56 m spire that had been kept hidden and ready to assemble inside the building until the last moment. Construction took under 2 hours and permitted the Chrysler building to reach 319 m, overtaking the Woolworth Building built by Gass Gilbert in 1913. It became the tallest building in the world but lost its supremacy after about a year to the Empire State Building by Shreve Lamb & Harmon. The whole building went up in just 20 months. The steel frame was erected by a company belonging to Luigi Binda, who had emigrated from Varese to New York, and employed master builders from Lombardy and Indian labour. The outer walls are in concrete and brick, faced with stone, gray and white Shastone marble, black and red brickwork, and stainless steel. The tower narrows as it rises with the main setbacks concentrated in the elevation of the first thirty floors. This play of vertical insets were dictated by the building code of 1916, but actually emphasized the vertical dynamism of the whole structure. The building is studded with decorative elements derived from the automobile world. The friezes on the 30th floor reflect tire and car fender motifs. With further examples from the industry to be found in the gigantic copies of real pieces from Chrysler vehicles such as the winged Mercury helmet radiator caps on the corners of the 40th floor or the eagle head emblems from the bonnets of the 1929 model Plymouth and here used in the eight gargoyles at the base of the spire. But the most recognizable and famous feature of the building is the extraordinary pinnacle with its repeated arches and inset triangular windows. Inside is the suite that was home to the exclusive “Cloud Club” until 1979. On the 71st floor was the famous “Observatory”, a space of about 400 sqm with 6 m high ceilings where the first tools used by W. Chrysler when he started work were kept on display. The complex structure of the spire is obtained by the intersection of several overlapping ribbed vaults, that become increasingly narrow towards the top, with different curvatures progressing from circular to elongated arches, increasing progressively in height and disappearing into the antenna on top of the spire. The entire spire is coated in “Nirosta”, a chrome, nickel and steel alloy, never before used in the USA, which besides giving the building a shiny and iridescent sheen, also proved to be so resistant to the effects of the weather and smog that no maintenance was required for over sixty years. The luxurious interior is decorated with an exceptional fusion of automobile motifs and stylistic features especially the entrance hall that is decorated with precious marbles and was originally intended to be a showroom for Chrysler cars.
The Art Déco style, that became so popular after the Paris Exposition in 1925, particularly in architecture, proved to be particularly suitable in skyscraper design, which, until the 1929 crash became the workshop for a refined and eclectic search to celebrate the economic growth of the 1920s. Thus, the eccentricity of Art Déco and Jazz Style – combined with dynamic symbolism, the use of unusual materials with an air of Hollywood about them and cubist-influenced collages – fully satisfied the Chrysler Corporation's publicity objectives.
In the 1970s the Chrysler Building was purchased by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company which started work on its renovation. This was completed by Jack K. Cooke, who became its owner in 1979. Declared a monument in 1978 by the Landmark Preservation Foundation of New York, the building was acquired twenty years later by Tishman Speyer Properties, who restored many of its decorative features, including the enormous mural “Energy, Result, Workmanship and Transportation” painted by Edward Trumbull on the ceiling of the hall in which the image of the building itself was intertwined with the celebration of the assembly lines of the Chrysler factories.