What is a Tall Building?


For structural engineers, a tall building is one that is primarily affected by lateral forces from wind and earthquakes. Modern tall buildings were born in 1885 with the all metal structure of the Home Insurance Building in Chicago. Their demand has almost exclusively been for commercial and residential use. Tall commercial buildings have served as prestige symbols for corporations (PanAm, Chrysler, Trump Tower, Woolworth, etc.). In Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro housing is usually 40-story towers within a few meters of each other. The increasing growth of the tourist industry demands taller hotels in city centers where land is scarce and expensive.

The famous architect Louis Sullivan coined the phrase that in buildings, “form follows function”.

Perhaps a better phrase that applies to skyscrapers came from Case Gilbert in 1900 (he was the designer of the Woolworth Tower in 1913, the World’s first “skyscraper”). Gilbert said: “A skyscraper is a machine that makes the land pay.”

Growth in height of the first great era of the American skyscraper



Leave a Reply