Even as a number of 8- to 10-m class telescopes come into operation worldwide, the scientific challenges these instruments and their space-based counterparts already address imply that future increases in light-gathering power and resolution will have to exceed conventional scaling factors. Indeed, it can be expected that the same progress in telescope diameter and resolution achieved throughout the century must now be realized within, at most, one or two decades. The technologies required to assert the validity of such an extrapolation appear to be within reach. Large telescopes successfully comissioned within the last decade have demonstrated key technologies such as active optics and segmentation. Furthermore, current design methods and fabrication processes imply that the technological challenge of constructing telescopes up to the 100-m range could, in some critical areas, be lower than those underlying, two decades ago, the design and construction of 8 to 10-m class telescopes. At system level, however, such giants are no size-extrapolated fusion of VLT and Keck, but fully integrated adaptive systems. In this paper we elaborate on some of the science drivers behind the OWL concept of a 100-m telescope with integrated adaptive optics capability. We identify major conceptual differences with classical, non-adaptive telescopes, and derive design drivers accordingly. We also discuss critical system and fabrication aspects, and the possible timeline for the concept to be realized.