William Van Alen (1883 – 1954) American architect (Chrysler Building)

William Van Alen American Architect
William Van Alen American Architect

William Van Alen (1883 – 1954) was an American architect born in Brooklyn, New York. He was professionally active in New York.


He studied at the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. In 1908, he was at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, under Victor-A.-F. Laloux. 


He was an office boy in the architecture office of Clarence True in New York. He worked for architecture firms Copeland and Dole and Clinton and Russell. He became an H. Craig Severance partner and known for distinctive multi-storey commercial buildings that abandoned traditional base, shaft, and capital arrangement. From cl 925, he practised alone. 

His architecture included the 1926 Child’s Restaurant Building, 1928 Reynolds Building, both in New York. 

Chrysler Building

Gargoyle Head, Chrysler Building New York
Gargoyle Head, Chrysler Building New York

Van Alen was best known for his 1928-31 Chrysler Building, 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, New York. Its distinctive features included the decorative brickwork frieze of automobile wheels and radiator caps, and stainless-steel gargoyles at the 31st-floor level, with other notable work on the 63rd-floor facade. The decoration was derived from the 1929 Chrysler automobile hood ornamentation. The building’s lobby was one of the most striking examples of Art Deco in the USA and incorporated dramatic murals, beige and red marble walls, and other walls and elevator doors inlaid with African woods based on floral abstraction.ย 

Chrysler Building, New York
Chrysler Building, New York


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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