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The Main Plaza skyscraper in Frankfurt am Main (2001)
Disc skyscraper of the German headquarters of SKF in Schweinfurt (1962)

The high-rise building type includes structures that are defined not only by their height but also by their shape. They are multi-storey, vertically oriented buildings that often take up residential, office and commercial functions. The term skyscraper is also used for buildings from a height of around 150 meters , although this height mark may vary depending on the context and region.



In Germany, the state building regulations define a building as a high-rise building when the floor of at least one lounge is more than 22 meters above the surface of the site, as fire brigade turntable ladders can only meet a nominal rescue height of 23 meters. In Germany, the term high-rise is defined in the model building regulations ( MBO ) and in most state building regulations in Section 2, Paragraph 4, Number 1. For higher buildings - i.e. the high-rise buildings - additional fire protection precautions must be taken, in particular the construction of two separate escape staircases . The requirements result from the high-rise directive and are mainly implemented in the building regulations and additional individual ordinances; In individual federal states, high-rise regulations (HochhVO) regulate the special requirements of the legislator for the construction and operation of high-rise buildings.


The building regulations for Vienna define high-rise buildings as "buildings whose top end including all roof structures [...] is more than 35 m above the lowest point of the adjoining site or the specified height of the adjoining traffic area."

The Lower Austrian Regional Planning Act defines building class IX buildings with over 25 m as high-rise buildings.

The Construction Technology Act of the State of Salzburg defines high-rise buildings as "buildings with a height of more than 25 m to the top cornice or the top eaves."


In Switzerland, the association of cantonal building insurance companies , which issues the main fire protection standards, defines high-rise buildings as buildings with a total height of more than 30 m. In the 1920s, the term “tower house” roughly corresponded to the expression “skyscraper” in German- speaking countries .

to form

After the mold is between tower blocks with a rather square and disk skyscrapers distinguished with longitudinal rectangular base. If more than two (mostly three) wings extend from a central core with staircase and elevators, one speaks of a star high-rise . There are also high-rise buildings with a "T" -shaped floor plan. The windmill high-rise is a design that was carried out in the GDR (e.g. in Rostock ) and has recently been carried out frequently in China . The name is derived from the floor plan, which in its symmetrical shape is reminiscent of the wing rim of a windmill.


The courtyard of Hardeg Castle in Hardegsen with the office building
Mud skyscrapers in Shibam

The technology of building high-rise buildings was already available in Europe in the Middle Ages, as church construction shows. The first known high-rise buildings in the manner of a Muthaus (residential tower) were built in Germany in the region of southern Lower Saxony and East Westphalia as early as the 14th century, for example the more than 30-meter-high Muthaus in Hardegsen from 1324. It is the oldest secular structure in Lower Saxony in this size and particularly well preserved.

Other well-known high-rise buildings were built from wood and clay in the Yemeni city ​​of Shibam in the 16th century . They have a height of up to 30 meters with up to nine floors . The Augsburg town hall , completed in 1624, can be seen as the “first skyscraper in Europe” . When it was completed, it was the only existing building in the world with more than six floors and, with a height of 57 meters, was the tallest non-sacred building in the world for over 200 years

Opened in 1868, the 82 meter high station building of St Pancras in London is built in the traditional manner without a steel frame. Therefore, the base of the masonry turns out to be extremely thick, as the narrow window openings show.
The 42 meter high
Home Insurance Building designed by William Le Baron Jenney from 1885 in Chicago is considered to be the first “ skyscraper ” (here with an extension from 1890). However, the building did not have a complete steel frame; only two of the walls were made of reinforced concrete .

The beginning of modern high-rise construction in the 19th century

Buildings for non-religious purposes in Europe were usually limited to six floors until the end of the 19th century because people were not willing to climb higher stairs on foot . The elevator technology was - for example in mining - A mature, but most people were still hesitating for fear of a crash to enter an elevator. The breakthrough came with the invention of the safety catch device for elevators by Elisha Otis , which he demonstrated in a spectacular way in 1854 with himself as a test subject.

Another prerequisite for high-rise construction was the skeleton construction , even if in individual cases at the end of the 19th century high-rise buildings were built that were only supported by their masonry. The skeleton construction has long been common in timber frame construction . Iron skeletons were used in industrial construction as early as the mid-19th century; Another example was the use of steel in bridge construction. With falling steel prices, the steel frame construction also became competitive for high-rise construction. Nowadays, the facade is usually hung in front of the steel frame, which also allows large window areas.

Other important innovations for high-rise construction were a fireproof construction, for which Peter B. Wight made a particular contribution . The Auditorium Building in Chicago, completed in 1890, received air conditioning for the first time . The driving force to strive for ever greater heights, however, was the skyrocketing land prices in the inner cities. However, mostly existing buildings had to be built here. One exception was Chicago , the city center of which was largely burned down in the Great Fire of 1871. As a result, Chicago - along with New York City and the Manhattan borough - became the US city that was first characterized by high-rise buildings. From 1890 to 1894, the Reliance Building was built here , which is considered to be the forerunner of the glass curtain wall construction that later determined the “international style” and a masterpiece of the First Chicago School .

Manhattan, New York City, as an exemplary high-rise city

Otis elevators made it possible to build ten stories high. Newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer's World Building, opened in 1890, already had a steel frame, but still rested largely on its masonry, which was more than two meters thick at the base.

In the Manhattan borough of New York City , the Fuller Building (or Flatiron Building ) from 1902 still stands today as an example of early skeleton construction. The most important project developer at the time was AE Lefcourt , who alone built more than 30 buildings, most of them high-rise buildings. The associated destruction of historic buildings led to a countermovement from 1913 to save the appearance of Fifth Avenue , which at that time was still lined with the townhouses of wealthy citizens. The decisive factor was the construction of a new headquarters for the Equitable Life Assurance Society , which cast a great shadow.

As a result, the city of New York issued a building code ( zoning ordinance ) in 1916 , which allowed an unlimited height development for only 25 percent of the property area, and contained a mathematically determined stepping rule for the rest of the building. It shaped the type of the New York Art Deco high-rise . The Woolworth Building designed by Cass Gilbert in 1913 set the tone here. Numerous high-rise buildings of this type were planned during the boom just before the great stock market crash of October 1929 and built until the first few years of the Great Depression, such as William Van Alen's Chrysler Building (1930) or the Empire State Building, which for many years was the tallest building in the world . In 1929, 188 of the 377 high-rise buildings in the USA with more than 20 floors were in New York City. In his book The Metropolis of Tomorrow , published in 1929, the illustrator Hugh Ferriss spread the myth of this kind of “skyscraper city”. Metropolis , Fritz Lang's silent film from 1927, also refers to this urban vision.

New York's building codes were changed more than 2,500 times from 1916 to 1960 alone. In addition to the global economic crisis, this led to fewer high-rise buildings being built from around 1933. In 1961, a new building law was introduced that stipulated its own standards for high-rise construction for each district. The decisive factor was the floor-to-area ratio , i.e. the ratio of the internal area used to the size of the property. The stepped architectural style typical of New York up to then was replaced by a style in which a plaza is located in front of a square high-rise building . From the 1950s onwards, new construction projects generated increasing resistance, which found its expression in Jane Jacobs ' pamphlet The Death and Life of Great American Cities from 1961. She called for cities to remain accessible to pedestrians and celebrated the mixed use of a district as an ideal.

As a result of the destruction of the original Pennsylvania Station New York Mayor founded Robert Wagner 1962, the Landmarks Preservation Commission , which in its first year in 1634 building under monument protection provided. In 2008, the number of protected buildings rose to over 27,000, and entire city districts were placed under ensemble protection. Any external changes to such a protected building must be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission . The preservation of historic monuments has become the most important factor hindering the construction of new high-rise buildings in New York City.

The skyline of a city characterized by high-rise buildings and the buildings that stand out from them always have a symbolic function. It is therefore no coincidence that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were primarily directed against the tallest building in New York, the World Trade Center .

Renaissance of high-rise construction in Asia and Arabia

A large number of residents can often hardly be accommodated without high-rise buildings, which is why most high-rise buildings are currently being built in Asia. Examples of Asian cities characterized by their high-rise skylines are Singapore and Hong Kong .

From 1931 ( Empire State Building ) to 2004, the size of high-rise buildings increased only comparatively slowly. Taipei 101 in Taiwan's capital Taipei can be the end point of this development , but most of the other extremely tall skyscrapers, such as the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur , are also being built in Asia. Since many Asian countries do not have a large steel industry, high-strength concrete is increasingly being used as a building material . At 828 meters, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai , United Arab Emirates , represents a leap in size. One of the biggest technical problems with this size is the wind load , which is why such buildings taper sharply upwards. In principle one could build considerably higher, only the elevator technology reaches its limits here, because the weight of the elevator ropes can hardly be controlled. In even higher buildings you would have to change at least once on the way up. The limit is currently being drawn by economics, since the total costs increase exponentially from a height of around 50 floors. Extremely tall skyscrapers are therefore usually built for reasons of prestige and not because it pays off.


First solitary skyscraper of Germany, the 1915 to 1916 by the architect usually applies Friedrich Pützer built tower house construction 15 of Carl Zeiss AG in Jena . With eleven storeys, it reached a height of 43 meters. With its grid-like windows, it has a facade that is based on US models. After extensive renovation, the former Zeiss production facility is now used for offices, apartments and medical practices.

The ten-story high-rise factory of the Auergesellschaft (later Osram ) in Berlin-Friedrichshain from 1909 - today called the “ Narva Tower ” - is a few years older and after an addition in 2000 it is now 63 m high. Whether this building is entitled to be called the first German skyscraper depends on the use of the (in its original state) staggered top floors (see section “Definition”), about which nothing is apparently known so far.

Much of the early German high-rise buildings in the 1920s were built in the Expressionist style . The first, albeit significantly lower, high-rise office building was the seven-storey industrial building in Düsseldorf am Wehrhahn from 1921 to 1923 based on plans by the Düsseldorf architects Hans Tietmann and Karl Haake. Another early high-rise is the Wilhelm-Marx-Haus , also built in Düsseldorf from 1922 to 1924 according to plans by the architect Wilhelm Kreis (13 floors, 57 meters high). The Hansahochhaus of Jacob Koerfer in Cologne was in 1925 with its height of 65 meters and 17 floors for several years the tallest secular building in Europe. The Tagblatt Tower, built in Stuttgart in 1928, with its 16 floors and a height of 61 meters, is the first high-rise in Germany to be made of exposed concrete , designed by Ernst Otto Oßwald . The clinker-clad Anzeiger high-rise in Hanover designed by the architect Fritz Höger , which was also completed in 1928, has a height of 50 meters with twelve floors.

In the years 1927 to 1929, the first high-rise in Europe east of Berlin was built in Breslau with the local post office based on the design of the government master builder and later chief post office building officer Lothar Neumann . The structure was erected as a steel frame structure with brick infill by Huta Hoch- und Tiefbau . The building facade was decorated with ceramic reliefs with pictorial representations made by the sculptor Felix Kupsch . The motifs depict scenes from the life of city dwellers, workers and students in Wroclaw or show historical postilion heads . Another early high-rise building is in reinforced concrete and a steel - skeleton built Hochhaus am Albertplatz in Dresden exterior Neustadt , which, designed by Hermann Paulick built 1929th The first skyscraper in Franconia was built in 1930 by Franz Kleinsteuber in Würzburg (Augustinerstraße).

Again for the Carl Zeiss company , the " Ernst-Abbe-Hochhaus " was built in Jena between 1935 and 1936 . After extensive renovation, the building is now the headquarters of the Jenoptik group administration. The high-rise building with its 16 floors and 66 m height was built by the construction company Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG under the direction of Johann Braun according to plans by the architects Hans Hertlein and Georg Steinmetz . A Hamburg Gauhaus and a Hamburg bank design , which Erich zu Putlitz had designed in the form of high-rise buildings in 1937/38, were not implemented.


The first high-rise is the Herrengasse high-rise built in 1931/32 by the construction company Rella & Neffe AG ​​according to plans by Theiss & Jaksch office , a residential and commercial building between Herrenstrasse and Wallnerstrasse in the 1st district of Vienna . The larger part of the complex, which adjoins the Loos-Haus at Michaelerplatz to the north and is oriented towards the height of the eaves, is 7 to 9 storeys high and was built in brick or reinforced concrete skeleton construction with brick infill; the high-rise section on the corner of Herrengasse and Fahnengasse (right next to today's Herrengasse subway station of the U3 ) is 52.5 m high (ground floor plus 15 floors) and was built as a steel frame. The top two floors are just a steel and glass structure that was originally used as a dance café.

First skyscraper after the Second World War was from 1954 to 1957 Matzleinsdorfer skyscraper as a residence in a Gemeindebauanlage in the 5th district of Vienna erected. From 1953 to 1955, the Ringturm , an office building of Wiener Städtische Versicherung (today Vienna Insurance Group ), was built on Wiener Schottenring .

After initial plans from 1956 and a construction period from 1962 to 1967, the Maria Theresia high-rise building (78.8 m high, 24 floors for living, 2 for shops, 2 cellars) was built on the street of the same name in Wels , for a short time highest in Austria. Before that, the Elisabeth-Hochhaus in Hugo-Wolf-Gasse in Graz was the tallest for a short time with 24 living levels and 75 m height.

Wooden skyscraper

In November 2012, the 8-story, 27-meter-high LifeCycle Tower One ( LCT ONE ) was built in Dornbirn in accordance with the passive house standard . It is the world's first wood-hybrid house with a system construction. The core of the building is constructed in reinforced concrete, with Glulam wood posts mainly in facade elements and 8 m spanning ceiling elements made of reinforced concrete-wood composite. Outer wall panels consist of OSB panels , the facade itself does not show any wood. According to the project operator, the modular construction system is suitable for buildings with up to 30 floors and 100 meters in height.

The highest wooden skyscraper in Switzerland at 60 meters was built in Rotkreuz and is due to open in September 2019.

Number of high-rise buildings in selected cities

city country High-rise buildings over 200 m High-rise buildings over 300 m High-rise buildings over 400 m High-rise buildings over 500 m
Dubai United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates 73 19th 2 1
Hong Kong China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 68 6th 2 0
New York City United StatesUnited States United States 67 7th 2 1
Moscow RussiaRussia Russia 13 4th 1 1

* Including towers.

city country High-rise buildings over 70 m High-rise buildings over 100 m High-rise buildings over 150 m High-rise buildings over 200 m
Frankfurt am Main GermanyGermany Germany 64 30th 14th 5
Vienna AustriaAustria Austria 43 13 2 1
Berlin GermanyGermany Germany 36 10 0 0
Hamburg GermanyGermany Germany 25th 4th 0 0
Cologne GermanyGermany Germany 20th 10 0 0
Basel SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 9 2 1 0

* including high-rise buildings under construction


lots of air conditioners at a high rise building in Hong Kong
Point high-rise in Hong Kong

Up to a certain height, high-rise buildings can be economical, for example because they offer a lot of usable space in relation to the floor area . From a certain height, however, the cost of erecting the building becomes uneconomical, because the costs for statics, logistics, energy supply, etc. rise disproportionately. Experts like Gerhard Matzig (who cites Albert Speer , among others ) see the economic limit of skyscrapers at around 300 m. Anything beyond that is irrational according to the current state of technology and only serves to outdo others.

The advantage of gaining additional usable space comes at the price of a number of disadvantages in high-rise buildings:

  • Shading the environment
Due to their height, high-rise buildings cast a larger shadow on their surroundings than other buildings. This usually leads to a lower quality of stay in the area and the shaded buildings.
High-rise buildings represent an obstacle to the wind. The resulting deceleration of air movement acts far into the area around the high-rise building; In the case of numerous high-rise buildings spread across the city, the reduced air exchange leads to higher pollutant emissions. The heating of the sealed urban area is then less mitigated by the exchange of air with the surroundings. Since the wind speed increases with height, the deflection of the wind through the large facades sometimes causes downdrafts in the immediate vicinity of a high-rise building. In particularly tall buildings, the down winds can reach a strength that makes it almost impossible to stay in the area.
  • Interruption of lines of sight
Due to their effect, high-rise buildings can seriously disrupt the established lines of sight of historic cities and places. Likewise, harmonious lines and eaves heights are interrupted by streets. High-rise buildings can optically separate entire districts from one another.
  • power consumption
A large glazed facade of high-rise buildings increases the heat absorption in summer, especially when the high-rise building is free and thus “catches” a lot of sun in the morning and evening hours. This and the mechanical air exchange often lead to a high consumption of energy for air conditioning systems compared to other building types. For some time now, however, high-rise planners have been trying to improve the energy balance of buildings through structural and air-conditioning measures.
  • Lack of relationship with public space
The participation of residents and users in what is happening in the public space in front of the house decreases significantly above the fifth floor. In addition, the traffic areas are heavily burdened by the congestion in the building's rhythm of use by oversized garage entrances, deliveries and temporary pedestrian flows. Semi-public spaces produce the necessary spacing areas.
  • Restricted use
Opening windows is either ruled out from the start or is critical from a certain height. The planning of balconies and loggias for high-rise apartment buildings becomes problematic in the higher areas. With increasing altitude, emergency operations become tricky for residents and users.
  • Questionable gain in space
Even with a limited construction height just below the high-rise boundary , a high structural density can be achieved, which is then no longer significantly greater given the distances between the high-rise buildings that are usual in Europe. This is particularly true if natural lighting is not used, with many workplaces in high-rise buildings with great depths also relying on artificial lighting. A high structural density in a high-rise district also requires the elimination of a car-friendly development and the renunciation of otherwise required spacing between buildings, which would also be possible with lower buildings. After all, the usable area of ​​high-rise buildings is reduced by technical floors, elevators, supporting pillars, etc.

Lists of skyscrapers



  • Big, bigger, bigger. The Burj Dubai skyscraper. (OT: Skyscraper. ) Documentary, USA, 2011, 50 min., Written and directed: Robert Hartel, production: Windfall Films, National Geographic Channel , series: Big, Bigger, Biggest , first broadcast: April 10, 2008 on National Geographic Channel , Synopsis and Preview from National Geographic Channel.
    The Burj Khalifa is the highlight of high-rise construction so far, the development steps of which are traced in seven stages using the corresponding pioneer buildings in computer animations and documentary recordings.

Web links

Commons : Skyscrapers  - Collection of Images
Wiktionary: high-rise  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Skyscraper  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Ernst Seidl (ed.): Lexicon of building types. Functions and forms of architecture . Philipp Reclam jun. Verlag, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 978-3-15-010572-6 .
  2. ^ What is a Tall Building? In: CTBUH ( Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat ), 2016, (English).
  6. Definitions of the VKF high-rise concept in: Fire protection standard. ( Memento of April 6, 2010 in the Internet Archive ). In: VKF , as of October 20, 2008:
    "Art. 12 f High-rise buildings: Buildings that are classified as high-rise buildings according to building legislation or the top floor of which is more than 22 m above the adjacent terrain serving the fire brigade or has an eaves height of more than 25 m. "
    Fire protection directive. Terms and definitions. In: VKF , as of January 1, 2017, 10-15de, (PDF; 49 p., 1.8 MB), accessed on February 18, 2017:
    "High-rise buildings: High-rise buildings are buildings that have a total height of more than 30 m. "
  7. The following three sections refer to Edward Glaeser : How Skyscrapers Can Save the City. In: The Atlantic , March 2011, pp. 40-53.
  8. ^ Study for Woolworth Building, New York . In: World Digital Library . December 10, 1910. Retrieved July 25, 2013.
  9. Photo: Warschauer Brücke in Berlin (front) with Osram factory D (wire mill) and Narva tower in the background, 1930 .
  10. ^ Karl Heinz Hoffmann: Portrait: Erich zu Putlitz. ( Memento from April 18, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) In the portal: Hamburg Architecture Archive of the Hamburg Chamber of Architects ( haa ).
  11. At the highest house in Wels, scaffolding grows in the sky, March 7, 2016, accessed on October 3, 2017.
  12. Cree GmbH> Technology Video: Cree. The Natural Change in Urban Architecture, Invented by Rhomberg (4:26 min). Retrieved June 14, 2017. - This video on CREE by Rhomberg | Timelapse LTC1 UK (4:26 min), May 6, 2015, accessed June 14, 2017.
  13. Soft shell, hard core. In: ORF , November 20, 2012. - Photo gallery of the LifeCycle Tower (LCT One) in Dornbirn, further links.
  14. IFZ in the wooden sky. In: . August 21, 2019, accessed August 22, 2019 .
  15. “It looks like it has grown.” In: Deutschlandfunk , January 4, 2010, interview with the architecture critic Gerhard Matzig .
  16. Werner Eicke-Hennig: Glass architecture - lessons from a large-scale experiment. In: Hessian energy saving campaign , and as PDF (1 MB): Glass architecture. January 24, 2016.
  17. Elmar Pfeiffer: 4.5 Construction and maintenance costs. ( Memento of the original from November 28, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Skyscrapers - Mirror of Irrationality , May 2014.