27 Cutaway Drawings That Show All The Secrets Of Buildings

Cutaway or cross-section drawings are mostly just fancy residues of a long-gone era when engineering and architecture visualisation was based on hand-drawn images that were often closer to art than boring illustration.

Today, when mostly CAD and computer graphics rule the field, the following selection of images from the past seems so exciting. Make sure you click on the “expand” button on each picture to see all the delicious little details! And feel free to add your favourite cutaway building in the discussions below.

Section showing the interior of Wyld’s Monster Globe, which stood in Leicester Square, London, from 1851 to 1861.

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

An artist’s impression showing of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, 1974.

Image: Space Frontiers/Getty Images

1950: Diagram of a typical subway bomb shelter proposed for New York City in a 104 Million dollar bomb shelter program outlined by the Board of Transportation.

Image: AP

1968: Drawing of the 10×10 foot wind tunnel at the Glenn Research Center.

Image: NASA/Glenn Research Center

1955: the 16-Foot high speed tunnel (HST) at the Langley Research Center.

Image: NASA/Langley Research Center

Cutaway illustration of the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator (NBS) at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), ca. 1968.

Image: NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

Architect and city planner Oscar Newman’s plan of a massive underground sphere beneath Manhattan, 1969.

Image: Ptak Science Books

A family in their backyard underground bomb shelter, early 1960s.

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Wylfa Magnox nuclear power plant, Wylfa, Anglesey, UK, 1965.

Image: Nuclear Engineering International magazine

An early space station concept drawing appeared in the 1959 Space The New Frontier brochure produced by NASA.

Image: NASA

Tank assembly lines, 1942.

Image: x-ray delta one

Food market, 1950.

Image: x-ray delta one

Ice cream factory, 1951.

Image: x-ray delta one

Fred Freeman’s impression of a lunar base, 1952.

Image: x-ray delta one

Crossing the River Mersey, Liverpool.

Image: x-ray delta one

An underwater condo complex.

Image: x-ray delta one

Atomic power plant of the future imagined by Ray Pioch in the Fifties.

Image: x-ray delta one

1962: The Space Needle, Seattle.

Image: x-ray delta one

Palace of the Soviets, Moscow, concept by Boris Iofan, 1936.

Image: Glen.H

Piccadilly Circus cutaway, London Transport Museum, 1989. Illustration by Gavin Dunn.

Image: magpie-moon

Draft artwork for the Naval Cathedral in Kronstadt by Vasily and Georgy Kosyakov, 1903.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

1859: design of Chersones Cathedral of St. Vladimir by David Grimm. East-west cutaway.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

“Aerial cutaway view of the Bank of England from the south-east” — a watercolour by Joseph Michael Gandy, 1830, courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Image: ArchiPress

The Metro Rail station at 5th and Hill, Los Angeles, 1983.

Image: Metro Transportation Library and Archive

View of a proposed Red Line station at Wilshire and La Brea, Los Angeles, 1983

Image: Metro Transportation Library and Archive

Plan of BBC television centre, London, 1958.

Image: tvstudiohistory.co.uk

Bonus photo: Architect Paolo Soleri rests in front of his “3-D Jersey,” a cutaway model on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, Feb. 17, 1970. It’s his idea of a supersonic jetport and city that might be built on the mud flats of New Jersey across the Hudson River from New York City. The structure he suggests is not just a jetport but a city, including hanging sunlit gardens, terminals and offices, hotels and theatres, and dwellings for one million.

Photo: Bob Daugherty/AP

Top image: the Dungeness B nuclear reactor, Kent, England — Nuclear Engineering International magazine