Boston College. Color slides copyright Prof. Jeffery Howe.

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(adapted from J. Carson Webster,  "The Skyscraper:  Logical and Historical Considerations," in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. XVIII, December 1959, 126-139)
I. Essential Characteristics
A. Great height -- relative
B. Interior arrangement in stories
C. Utmost space and light
II. Necessary Means
A. Structural system adequate -- skeletal framing
B. Materials necessary for structural system -- steel and
C. Passenger elevators
III. Favoring Conditions
A. Economic: high value of land, availability of labor and capital
B. Social: living in large groups, vigorous enterprise, organization of labor
C. Technological: availability of suitable tools, processes, and sources of power; development of plumbing, engineering
D. Psychological: desires (conscious or unconscious) which a tall form can express
E. Aesthetic: a liking for height; preference for effect of towers related to lower buildings

Technology Notes:

Bearing wall construction:

Cast iron:

Wrought iron:


Chronology of Enabling Technologies

1853: safety elevator (Otis)
1855: Bessemer process for steel
1868: typewriter
1876: mimeograph
1876: telephone
1879: electric light
1880: steel becomes cheap
1885: skyscraper


Tallest Buildings

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Jeffery Howe: 1996, 1997, 1998. (email: