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When we look outside, we see the world as a very visual place, with many aspects that change what we see. In cities, skylines are transformed by towering buildings that touch the sky called skyscrapers. The first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, was constructed in 1885 in Chicago. Buildings grew taller and taller with the invention and use of steel, reinforced concrete, water pumps and elevators. Buildings taller than four floors attempt to lighten the load of construction by using frame engineering inside, supporting a thin, light curtain wall on the outside. Skyscrapers continue to compete to see which one can claim the title of the world's tallest building. Skyscraper design and construction present many challenges to the designer and engineer such as in the case of the World Trade Center, demanding security and longevity considerations.
The sky’s the limit!

Activity 1 Be a Skyscraper Architect

A low-rise building rarely deals with wind loads, whereas a skyscraper must take into consideration this factor in its design. The term skyscraper comes from a nautical term for a tall mast or sail on a sailing ship. In your sketchbooks, design and draw your own skyscraper. It will be a downtown office building overlooking the lakefront. Show a building core (which contains elevators, fire stairs, and men and women facilities), as well as the room layouts of a typical floor. Decide what type of structure you will use and show it in your section drawing. Show both a plan, and a section. Also draw a series of 3D perspective drawings of your design. Submit your drawings.

Activity 2 Build A Tall Building

Using 3x5 note cards ($1,000 per unit) and a 1’ strip of tape ($5,000 per unit), design and build a tower to support as much weight as possible as far off of a table top for the least amount of money. You can bend, fold, and tear, but you can only use your hands and the tape to assemble.

Submit a photograph of your tower with its height, total weight supported and cost.

Activity 3 history of skyscrapers

Which building is considered the first true skyscraper? Who designed it and where was it built? What structural system was used. What materials were used? Research the history of skyscrapers and discover the invention that made living vertically possible! Draw a picture of your skyscraper for the cover of your paper. Create an outline for your skyscraper paper. Use the library and the internet to collect at least five resources for your paper. Type these resources as a bibliography to your writing. Take notes from your resources that fit into your outline. Write a three page paper and submit it to your teacher.

Once you better understand why and how tall buildings are built, consider researching and writing about the tallest building in your city!


  1. Define a skyscraper.

  2. Wind load is:

  3. Buildings over four floors must be supported by a:

  4. Skyscraper comes from the nautical term for a:

  5. Developments of skyscrapers happened because of:


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