Joe Griffiths wants to keep New York’s precious Chrysler Building firmly in his sights but had a lucky escape from London’s equivalent of the gateway to Mordor, Archway Tower
I am a big fan of Art Deco design and so it is not surprising that my wonder has to be the Chrysler Building in New York City. I first saw it in the on a trip I made to the USA in 1990 and it has made a lasting impression on me ever since. I have yet to find any other challengers to the title of best Art Deco architectural design. At the time of my trip I recall wishing the Chrysler was in London so that I could see it in the flesh more often but it may have looked a little out of place in 1990. Designed by William Van Alen and built at a time of intense competition in the world’s tallest building stakes, the competitive nature of skyscraper building did not detract in the slightest to the beauty of the Chrysler. Indeed it was the tallest building for just under a year when it was surpassed by the Empire State Building but at the time of its construction it was part of its own two horse race with another building nearby. The Chrysler nearly lost the race but for the addition of the 120ft spire that was constructed in secret within the frame of the building and then hoisted into position beating the rival next door.
Back across the pond, my blunder has to be the Archway Tower. Having lived in north London for a number of years and passing it each time I ventured in and out of London on the A1 I concluded that it must be Archway’s answer to the Tower of Mordor. There are no redeeming features, in my view, of a building that jars the landscape and views of the City for most residents of the area. Like the Tower of Mordor it guards the main entrance heading into inner London and serves as a warning to weary travellers to enter at their own risk (or at least that is what it feels like). It is also apparently the inspiration for Nick Hornby’s novel “A long way down” when four strangers meet at the top of a building called Topper’s House on New Year’s Eve to contemplate suicide …
The Chrysler Building was built from 1928-1930 and was the headquarters to Chrysler Corporation until the mid fifties. Approximately 3,826,000 bricks were laid during construction to create its non-loadbearing walls. It is considered a masterpiece of Art Deco architecture and is renowned for its terraced crown, made up of seven radiating terraced arches.
Archway Tower was completed in 1963 and has divided opinion on its architectural merits ever since. Islington council has been consulting on the future of the building this year, revealing widespread opposition among the community with fears over damaging the local economy.
Joe Griffiths is a partner at Edwin Coe