~ a skyscraper that is at least 300 meters or 1,000 feet tall

supertallHarboring eight supertalls, Dubai Marina is the world’s premiere supertall cluster. source: Francis Norman at flickr.com

Of the many ways in you can define a skyscraper, setting a fixed height is not one of them. Contrary, a supertall is being defined by a height threshold and nothing else. Here is why:

First of all, given the happy numerical accident that 300 meters roughly translates into 1,000 feet (984 feet to be exactly) which are round numbers from whatever side of the ocean you’re looking at it.

Secondly, once you start crossing the 300 meter / 1,000 feet mark, you have travelled far beyond the grey zone of the skyscraper definition and you know are dealing with a skyscraper no matter what.

The first building that accomplished supertall height was the Chrysler Building (1), which, in turn, was inspired by the height of the Eiffel Tower, the world’s first man-made structure surpassing that threshold height.

It’s not known whether it’s a coincidence of a deliberate decision that the Eiffel Tower was to be 324 meters / 1,063 feet tall, but it sure set an interesting target height for those with onward ambitions.

I don’t know when supertall was coined, but it feels like a term that naturally came into being. Technically an adjective, we use it as a noun on the SkyscraperCity forums, and we have been using it for a quite while now. Especially since the early 2000’s, when Asian and Middle Eastern cities started to join the fun, the appearance of the supertall has moved from incidental to regular. When that happens, you know it’s time to start coining and using terms for that so it’s safe to say that the term has been in use for a good 10+ years.

As of november 2013, there are 75 completed supertalls, with well over 100 in the makings, and many more on the drawing board.

(1) For those interested in reading about the race for the first building to reach supertall height, go here.

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