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What is a Skyscraper?

The word "skyscraper" originated from the word used to describe tall sails on sailboats.
The Burj al Arab, a skyscraper in Dubai.
Many cities feature skyscrapers in their skylines.
Dubai has many tall buildings, including one of the world's tallest.
The Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.
The flag of Hong Kong. Several of the world's tallest skyscrapers are found in Hong Kong.
Many of Shanghai's skyscrapers were built while the Chinese economy boomed in the 1990s and 2000s.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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A skyscraper is an extremely tall building. There is no minimum height for buildings to qualify as one, but they noticeably stand out in a city's skyline. The term originates from the name given to the tall sails on sailboats. Skyscrapers are typically made from a steel structure around a core column, which is usually formed from reinforced concrete that is made with cement blended with iron. This strong core contains the plumbing and elevators.

The tallest skyscrapers in the world include the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; the Taipei 101 building in Taipei, Taiwan; the Petronas 1 and 2 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and the Willis Tower (better known as the Sears Tower) in Chicago. Burj Khalifa, opened in 2010, stands 2,722 feet (829.8 m) tall and has 163 floors. The Taipei 101 was built in 2004, has 101 floors and is 1,667 feet (508 m) tall. The Petronas Towers were constructed in 1998 and are each 88 stories with heights of 1,483 feet (452 m). Willis Tower was built in 1974, has 110 floors and is 1,451 feet (442 m) high. New York City's World Trade Center twin towers, built in 1972 and 1973 and destroyed 11 September 2001, were also 110 floors each, but were not as tall as the Willis Tower.

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New York City is home to the world's oldest, and some of its tallest, skyscrapers. Two New York structures, The Trump Building and the Chrysler Building, are older than the world famous Empire State Building, but not as tall. The Empire State Building was built in 1931 with 102 stories and a height of 1,250 feet (381 m). The Chrysler Building, constructed in 1930, has 77 stories and is 1,046 feet (319 m) tall, while the Trump Building, also built in 1930, has 71 floors with a height of 927 feet (283 m). New York also has two more of the world's oldest and tallest buildings: The American International Building finished in 1932 at 67 stories and 952 feet (290m) and the G.E. Building, built in 1933 with 70 stories and a height of 850 feet (259 m).

Asia and the United States have the most skyscrapers. Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Dubai have many, while New York and Chicago contain the most in the US. Shanghai has at least four of the world's tallest buildings while Melbourne, Australia, and Toronto, Canada, have at least three. Atlanta and Houston are American cities that have at least three.

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Discuss this Article

DylanB
Post 8

I have not entered a skyscraper since I saw the footage of 9/11 on television. I will never feel secure in a building that tall. There is always the chance of another terrorist attack, and if you are that high in the air, you are vulnerable.

JackWhack
Post 7

It's no wonder that the big cities like New York have several skyscrapers. There are so many people living and working there that they have nowhere to build but up!

There is only so much land space available, so at some point, you have to start making use of the sky. Skyscraper construction is a good way to solve congestion issues and provide more office space.

giddion
Post 6

@kentuckycat – The Empire State Building sounds like my kind of skyscraper! I hate looking down from up high, and it would be great to feel protected from the possibility of getting an accidental glance.

Most likely, I will never visit a skyscraper. I had a bad experience at the top of a lighthouse that has scarred me.

As I neared the top of the stairs inside, I peeked out the window and saw how high I was. I panicked and had to crawl the rest of the way up to rest on a flat landing. My husband made me go out on the deck at the top, and as soon as I stepped out, I had to put my back to the wall and slide down to a sitting position.

cloudel
Post 5

Whoever built the first skyscraper must have been pretty ambitious and brave. A building that high has to have some serious reinforcement, and you have to figure in how it will be affected by wind and storms.

kentuckycat
Post 4

@stl156 - You may have height induced vertigo and the site merely threw your balance way off. I guarantee you have never looked straight down from that high before.

That is pretty interesting that you can look straight down though, because there are not a whole lot of skyscrapers that give people that opportunity.

The Empire State Building, for example, limits its visitors to a panoramic view of the city and they are so far back from the edge of the building that it is impossible to look straight down at the street below.

Does anyone else have other experiences of skyscraper visits or different ways in which people can view different things from that height?

stl156
Post 3
I have to say that whenever I go to a big city I have to visit a very tall skyscraper just so I can see the view.

I visited the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, in Chicago and it was an incredible sight.

I swear I was so high up, over one quarter mile in the air, that I could see both Indiana and Michigan from the air, as well as figure out what road I would have to take to get to my next destination.

One interesting thing about the observation deck was that there was a place you could stand and look straight down at the street below. I had a problem with this as I immediately got dizzy and almost fell over backwards looking straight down at the street below.

jcraig
Post 2
@Emilski - Although it does seem to be really neat, that is not a great reason to get a job and what if you were to get a job at the ground floor?

I really think that this novelty would get pretty old after awhile and unless you were to have a clear view, not of another building, and were high up enough to see a distance, there would really be nothing special to working in a skyscraper.

Another thing to keep in mind is that only so many people have window views, as a lot of these are conference rooms and there are a lot of rooms in the interior that are used as offices and cubicles.

Emilski
Post 1
I have always found skyscrapers to be quite fascinating, simply because they are incredibly high buildings that can sometimes be as tall as a mountain.

I just think that it is incredibly interesting to think that a person could be doing their job, having meetings, and filing paperwork hundreds of feet in the air, and be able to do this on a daily basis.

I guess it would probably get old after a while, but I would honestly like to work a job where my office is in a skyscraper just for the novelty of it.

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