To save space and to provide stability the vertical part of the crane is often braced onto the completed structure which is normally the concrete lift shaft in the center of the building.
A horizontal boom is balanced asymmetrically across the top of the tower. Its short arm carries a counterweight of concrete blocks, and its long arm carries the lifting gear.
The crane operator either sits in a cabin at the top of the tower or controls the crane by radio remote control from the ground, usually standing near the load. In the first case the operator's cabin is located at the top of the tower just below the horizontal boom.
The boom is mounted on a slewing bearing and is rotated by means of a slewing motor. The lifting hook is operated by a system of sheaves.
A tower crane is usually assembled by a telescopic jib crane of smaller lifting capacity but greater height and in the case of tower cranes that have risen while constructing very tall skyscrapers, a smaller crane (or derrick) will sometimes be lifted to the roof of the completed tower to dismantle the tower crane afterwards.
A self-assembling tower crane lifts itself off the ground using jacks, allowing the next section of the tower to be inserted at ground level. It is often claimed that a large fraction of the tower cranes in the world are in use in Dubai.