The term skyscraper in early times was commonly used in marine services to describe the high erected mast of a ship. This term was coined later to refer to storey buildings. Previously the term referred to very tall buildings of ten to twenty storeys but in the recent past the term now includes high-rises of forty to fifty storeys or even more. However, for a building to be termed as a skyscraper, it should be distinct from other surrounding buildings in its striking feature of high elevation and markedly affecting the normal view of skyline when looked across through its high rise due to its obstruction (Moudry, 2005 pp.
16-18). Evolution of skyscrapers Evolution of skyscrapers can be traced back to early Babylonian civilization with the Tower of Babel erected in the Babylon which was the first city to be established after great flood as it is given in the Biblical narrative, historical context and other extracanonical sources. Down the line, there has been erection of some tall buildings in different cities of the world but have not been such remarkable as those from the beginning of nineteenth century.
Prior to this time, relatively tall buildings used to exist that basically employed use of masonry as the oldest material. The 19th Century structural system technological developments have been hallmark to the emergence of super tall buildings in the world. These new advancements from masonry which were the oldest material all through steel work era to use of composite construction have seen the erection of super tall buildings such as the Petronas Towers and the Jin Mao building that we see today.
The City Hall in Philadelphia is the tallest masonry building in the world. It is 167 M (548 ft). It was completed in 1901 using masonry bricks and stones. But this technique could not easily allow construction of super tall buildings seen in today’s world because stone and bricks heavy weights were the limiting factor. The first skyscraper was steel- framed ten storeys known as Your Home Insurance Building in Chicago built by Illiam Le Barion Jenney, an engineering officer in 1885. Your Home Insurance Building was among the first buildings to use metal for support.
After some sixteen years later, the first concrete 15 storey skyscraper known as Ingalls Building in Cincinnati, Ohio was erected by Elzner, O. A. It had integration of twisted steel bars with concrete as frame with slabs and concrete exterior walls (Haverstock et al, 2000 pp. 105-108). This was a remarkable stride in the realm of construction by 20th Century. However, more improvement in concrete technology has continued to be realized. The innovations of lightweight concrete material enable construction of tall buildings.
The One Shell Plaza built in Texas in early 1970s which has 52 stories is a good example of tallest lightweight structure in the world. It can be observed that from early skyscrapers constructors, the technological evolutions were partly necessitated by the dictates of human needs such as residential and office apartment’s architectural arrangements so as to meet people needs wholesomely (Wright, 2007 pp. 77-80). Structural developments have even made it easier to meet these increasingly new demands by innovation of framed tabular structural systems.
This has facilitated construction of many stories building. This is because they give three-dimensional robust framework that is able to resist mechanical stresses and compressions. Presently, skyscrapers constructions make use of steel; reinforced concrete, granite and glass. Many of skyscrapers in ancient times were found in parts o f Chicago, New York and London towards close to 19th Century. Today, skyscrapers are not limited to these regions alone, but are found even in Asian continent.
In the New York City, at the beginning of 20th Century it was the center of the Beaux Arts architectural movement that made it so progressive having been graced with great architects that enabled it to be land of outstanding skyscrapers in the world. It is generally observed that skyscrapers since the past were associated with elements of nation’s power and economic status. This is because the nature of super tall building built largely depends on the financial capabilities, technological advancements and man power which reflects nation’s supremacy and hence its pride.
In about last two decades skyscraper designs are taking latest architectural designs that include former designs but with characteristic features of the geographic elements of where these structures built such as cultural designs like Arabic arts as exhibited in Burj Dubai skyscraper which is yet to be completed. It is evident that, apart from innovations in structural system, geographical changes also markedly did affect the evolution of skyscraper designing especially in twentieth century. Early architects of skyscrapers as it can be seen in World Trade Center, as an example, assumed geometrical shapes like that of a box.
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