William Van Alen was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1883. While he attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, he worked in the office of Clarence True. He also worked for several firms in New York, before he won the 1908 Lloyd Warren Fellowship which allowed him to study in Europe. In Paris, Van Alen studied in the atelier of Victor Laloux at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
In 1911, Van Alen returned to New York, where he formed a partnership with H. Craig Severance. The partnership became known for its distinctive multistory commercial structures which abandoned the historic formula of base, shaft, and capital. The partnership dissolved around 1925 and Van Alen continued to practice on his own in New York.
Van Alen is best known for his design of the Chrysler Building, often praised as the greatest example of Art Deco style skyscrapers and the perfect monument to American capitalism. Although the Chrysler Building is now highly regarded, his career suffered after its completion due to accusactions made against him by the powerful client, William P. Chrysler. He died in 1954.
Adolf K Placzek: Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects. Vol. 1., The Free Press, London 1982