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Skyline of Lower Manhattan. The term "Skyline" was first used for New York City in 1896.
Skyline of Tokyo

A skyline is the outline or shape viewed near the horizon. It can be created by a city's overall structure, or by human intervention in a rural setting, or in nature that is formed where the sky meets buildings or the land.

City skylines serve as a pseudo-fingerprint as no two skylines are alike. For this reason, news and sports programs, television shows, and movies often display the skyline of a city to set a location. The term The Sky Line of New York City was introduced in 1896, when it was the title of a color lithograph by Charles Graham for the color supplement of the New York Journal.[1] Paul D. Spreiregen, FAIA, has called a [city] skyline "a physical representation [of a city's] facts of life ... a potential work of art ... its collective vista."[2]


High-rise buildings[edit]

Detroit's skyline, c. 1929

High-rise buildings, including skyscrapers, are the fundamental feature of urban skylines.[3][4] Both contours and cladding (brick or glass) make an impact on the overall appearance of a skyline.


San Gimignano Towers in Tuscany, Italy

Towers from different eras make for contrasting skylines.

San Gimignano, in Tuscany, Italy, has been described as having an "unforgettable skyline" with its competitively built towers.[5]

Remote locations[edit]

Mount Everest

Some remote locations have notably striking skylines, created either by nature or by sparse human settlement in an environment not conducive to housing significant populations.

Architectural design[edit]

Road in front, skyline in background (Abu Dhabi, Middle East)

Norman Foster served as architect for the Gherkin in London and the Hearst Tower in Midtown Manhattan, and these buildings have added to their cities' skylines.

Use in media[edit]

Skylines are often used as backgrounds and establishing shots in film, television programs, news websites, and in other forms of media.

Subjective ranking[edit]

Several services rank skylines based on their own subjective criteria. Emporis is one such service, which uses height and other data to give point values to buildings and add them together for skylines. The three cities it ranks highest are Hong Kong, New York City, and Singapore.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Moving Uptown". New York Public Library. Archived from the original on 2014-12-29. When Charles Graham's view of New York was published, the new term used in the title, "sky line," caught on immediately.
  2. ^ Paul D. Spreiregen (1965). Urban Design: The Architecture of Towns and Cities. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 9780070603806.
  3. ^ Heath, Tom; Smith, Sandy G.; Lim, Bill (July 2000). "Tall Buildings and the Urban Skyline: The Effect of Visual Complexity on Preferences". Environment and Behavior. 32 (4): 541–556. doi:10.1177/00139160021972658. ISSN 0013-9165. S2CID 5199331.
  4. ^ McNeill, Donald (February 2005). "Skyscraper geography". Progress in Human Geography. 29 (1): 41–55. doi:10.1191/0309132505ph527oa. S2CID 220928675. geographers have tended to neglect the substantial impact of skyscrapers on urban life.
  5. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Historic Centre of San Gimignano". Archived from the original on 2016-08-04.
  6. ^ "Skyline Ranking". Emporis. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved 29 April 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]