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Hong Kong's skycraper-filled cityscape, seen at nightHong Kong's skycraper-filled cityscape, seen at nightSkyscrapers are very tall buildings, usually more than 20 storeys high. Their weight is supported by a steel frame rather than outside walls. They are a feature of many large cities, especially in North America, the Gulf states and East Asia, where the high price of land leads developers to build tall, thin buildings that occupy the minimum amount of land space, rather than low-rise, sprawling ones.

Bank of China, Empire State Building, Petronas TowersBank of China, Empire State Building, Petronas Towers
The Flatiron Building, New York, taken in 1903The Flatiron Building, New York, taken in 1903

History of skyscrapers

The first skyscraper was built in Chicago in 1884 following a fire that devastated the city. Architects took the opportunity to put up new types of buildings there. The 10-storey Home Insurance Building was the first to be be built using an iron and steel frame to support its weight, rather than its outside walls. The invention of mechanical lifts (known as elevators in the US) by Elisha Graves Otis in 1854 made it possible for people to get up tall buildings easily. Soon, skyscrapers started to appear in New York as well as Chicago, often being built higher and higher in competition with one another. In recent years, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are among nations where new skyscrapers are being built.

Skyscraper construction

Modern skyscrapers are designed to sway so that they do not snap in strong winds or during earthquakes. The Burj Khalifa sways more than 3 m (10 ft) to and fro at the top.

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