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Source: Oxford University Press

Colloquial term referring to a multi-storey building designed for human occupancy (usually for office use), the height of which greatly exceeds one or both of its horizontal dimensions. The term, which can be defined only from an empirical and historical viewpoint rather than a formal and ontological one, was coined in the late 18th century in a non-architectural context, and its use subsequently spread to include other designations before being applied to tall buildings; the first building to be termed a skyscraper was Queen Anne’s Mansions, an apartment building erected in London c. 1880. The evolution of the skyscraper took place in the USA; the first application of the term to American high-rise commercial buildings appeared in 1889 (‘Chicago’s Skyscrapers’, Chicago Tribune, 13 Jan 1889), but it was in New York that the economic imperatives for the development of skyscrapers first became decisive (see §1 below). The skyscraper subsequently became the most representative building type of the 20th century in cities all over the world, the possibilities of the form inspiring architects and allowing the fulfilment of corporate aims for prestigious, landmark buildings; many utopian skyscraper projects are milestones of 20th-century architecture.

© 2009 Oxford University Press


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