14. Skyscraper

A skyscraper is tall, continuously habitable building. No official definition or height requirements have been specified. Anything that stands above the surrounding buildings and changes the skyline is a skyscraper!

The word skyscraper was a nautical term referring to a small triangular sail, set above the sky sail of a sailing ship. In the late 19th century, this term came to denote the multiple storied buildings being built in Chicago and New York city.

The first skyscraper was built in Chicago called “The Home Insurance Building”. At that time, people were afraid of using elevators which were unsafe. Often people would fall off from them. Otis made the elevator safe for every one who used it.

In those days, all the buildings were constructed with bricks, inside and outside. This made the construction very heavy, setting a limit to the number of floors the foundation can safely support.

William Le Baron Jenney discovered a new way of making the construction stronger and yet much lighter. He used steel beams for the skeleton of the building. These would bear the weight of the building so that the heavy load-bearing masonry could be eliminated. Masonry was only to give a beautiful finish to the building. This came to be called as the Chicago skeleton form.

The first skyscraper in Chicago was constructed in 1885 and demolished in 1931. It was ten stories high and 138 feet tall. The inner structure was made of steel and the outer structure was made of bricks.

Today skyscrapers are being built with reinforced cement concrete.

Visalakshi Ramani


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