Culture and Recreation


Who invented the skyscraper?

The credit is usually given to American architect William Jenney (1832–1907), who designed the 10-story Home Insurance Building, erected on the corner of LaSalle and Monroe Streets in Chicago in 1885. The building was the first in which the entire structure was of skeleton construction—of cast iron, wrought iron, and Bessemer steel. However, some experts believe the first skyscraper to have been designed was one by the American firm Holabird and Roche, also in Chicago. The firm, founded by two former students of Jenney, designed the skeleton-framed Tacoma Building, which was actually not completed until 1889. Both the Home Insurance Building and the Tacoma Building were demolished in 1931 and 1929, respectively.

It was the use of steel, the innovation of a safe elevator, and the use of central heating that combined to make possible the construction of tall buildings toward the end of the nineteenth century. Once the trend had started, it quickly took off: Another Chicago firm, Burnham and Root (Burnham, too, had been a student of Jenney), completed the 14-story Reliance Building in 1895; it had a steel skeleton frame. The further development of the skyscraper is visible in the Gage Buildings in Chicago—two of which were designed by Holabird and Roche, and one by Louis Henry Sullivan (1856–1924), the Chicago architect often credited for mastering the skyscraper. Other Chicago skyscrapers built by Holabird and Roche during the early days of modern architecture include the Marquette Building (1894) and the Tribune Building (1901).

Standing at 1,671 feet, Taiwan’s Taipei 101 became the world’s tallest building when its pinnacle was completed in 2003.

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