Fascinating illustrations ‘peel away’ the exteriors of U.S landmarks

Fascinating illustrations ‘peel away’ the exteriors of some of America’s most famous landmarks, from the Statue of Liberty to the White House

  • Cross section images show the steel frames inside the Statue of Liberty, created by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel 
  • An illustration of the Willis Tower shows the giant square tubes that help the building withstand strong winds
  • Underneath the East and Hudson Rivers, there are many tunnels used by New York City subway trains  

You’re probably very familiar with America’s most famous landmarks.

After all, they’re famous landmarks.

But here you can rediscover them, because these fascinating illustrations peel back their exteriors to reveal what’s lurking inside.

They include the Statue of Liberty, with its steel framework designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the stairways and rotating glass roof of the Space Needle in Seattle, and the underwater tunnels beneath the East and Hudson Rivers used by New York City subway trains coming into and out of Manhattan.

Researchers painstakingly studied images and floor plans in order to create an accurate representation of the inside of each landmark. Scroll down to see some of America’s most famous buildings ‘opened up’…

The Statue of Liberty, New York City 

The Statue of Liberty’s facade is by Frenchman Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, but its iron pylon and steel framework innards were designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, creator of the Eiffel Tower. Eiffel was charged with building a skeleton that would allow Bartholdi’s hammered-copper exterior – created with a technique called ‘repousse’ – to move in the wind so the whole thing wouldn’t be blown down

The statue’s copper skin was insulated with asbestos to prevent its connection to the frame from corroding. Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, designed the pedestal with deliberate simplicity so as not to distract from the symbolic statue

The Statue of Liberty was a joint effort between France and the United States and created in France between 1876 and 1886. Its goal was to commemorate the lasting friendship between the two nations. The statue was shipped to the U.S in pieces and erected on a small island in Upper New York Bay, now known as Liberty Island

The White House, Washington DC

The White House, the official residence of the President of the United States, was designed by Irish architect James Hoban, who modelled the building on Leinster House in Dublin. Construction started on the building, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in 1792 and was completed in 1800

The White House has been expanded over the years with additions such as Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s porticoes on the north and south facades. Thomas Jefferson, the second president to live at the White House, added the East and West Wings having been inspired by Renaissance villas he’d seen in Palladio’s Four Books on Architecture. Curiously, it is believed that Jefferson had been one of the losing architects in the original competition to design the American president’s home

Every US president has lived at the White House since John Adams in 1800. It is positioned in the heart of Washington DC

Radio City Music Hall, New York City

The largest indoor theater in the world may be an imposing modernist monolith from the outside, but the true treasures of Rockefeller’s ‘people’s palace’ are to be found inside. John D. Rockefeller found unlikely potential in a struggling area following the crash of 1929. He owned an unpromising stretch of land at the heart of Manhattan, which commercial tenants were unlikely to consider an appealing choice. His solution was to team up with the Radio Corporation of America, theater impresario S.L. ‘Roxy’ Rothafel, and designer Donald Deskey, to create a grand and classy interior that would boost the prestige of the neighborhood while connecting with the average person on the street

Deskey created elegant spaces, hiring specialists to create murals, sculptures and draperies and combining precious marble and gold foil with then-fashionable textures of Bakelite, aluminum, and cork. As the New York Tribune put it the morning after the theater’s first show: ‘The least important item […] was the show itself. It has been said of the new Music Hall that it needs no performers; that its beauty and comforts alone are sufficient to gratify the greediest of playgoers’

Space Needle, Seattle

Built in Seattle for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle’s futuristic design was inspired by the idea that the fair needed a structure to symbolize humanity’s Space Age aspirations. It stands at 605 feet tall and is one of the most photographed structures in the world. Recently, the landmark had a 21st-century makeover, with workers toiling 600ft in the sky to add a new steel staircase and 176 tons of glass – including the world’s only rotating glass floor – to the ‘Cloud City’ atop the needle. The half-height walls of the observation deck gave way to 11ft-high glass panels with glass benches, adding to the sense that visitors are hovering improbably over nothing but air

New places to eat have also been added to the Space Needle, including a restaurant with a glass floor, where diners can try and keep their food down as they gawp at the ground far below them – the equivalent distance of two football fields laid end to end

Willis Tower, Chicago

Perhaps still better known as the Sears Tower, Willis Tower was the tallest building in the world for 25 years following its completion in 1973. As such, new approaches were required to keep it stable in Chicago’s famous winds. There are nine giant square tubes connected at the building’s core (a ‘bundled tube’ system), each one reinforcing the strength of the others. But their heights vary individually to disrupt the wind. The building provides a stunning three million square feet of floor space

The Sears company’s merchandising unit originally took advantage of the huge floor plans of lower levels, while the smaller footprints of the higher levels were designed to maximize window coverage, resulting in desirable office space for prestige tenants

The Willis Tower was designed by Bruce J. Graham and it took three years to build. It has 110 storeys and is 1,450ft tall. It is still the tallest building in Chicago

Trinity Church, Boston 

Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson in the Richardson Romanesque style, Trinity Church in Boston is considered the birthplace for this type of architecture. The church features a clay roof, arches, rough stones and towers. The Richardson Romanesque style has since been used in many other buildings in the United States

Trinity Church brought a sense of historical and literal gravity to America’s rootlessly eclectic 19th-century architectural landscape when it was completed in 1877. The weighty, medieval-inspired stonework and dramatic arches certainly add a bold, proto-Gothic feel from the outside, but a more delicate sense is achieved indoors through Richardson’s use of stained-glass windows, colorful mosaics, and wall murals by John LaFarge

The church is supported by over 4,000 wooden piles, added to keep the building stable since it was built on an actual water bay that was drained and filled with gravel in the late 1800s

New York City Subway  

Opened in 1904, the New York City Subway is one of the world’s oldest public transit systems, one of the world’s most used metro systems, and the metro system with the most stations. It offers services 24 hours per day, every day of the year, though some routes may operate only part-time. This image shows the rock cliff and metro lines around New Jersey, Manhattan, The Bronx and Brooklyn

These 100-year-old tunnels faced their most dramatic moments during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when over 50 million liters of water flooded through the East River tunnels causing over a billion dollar’s worth of damage. It could have been worse. Shutting the North River Tunnels for repairs would have caused a major economic crisis

The New York City Subway is owned by the City of New York and leased to the New York Transit Authority, a subsidiary agency of the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)

  • Pictures courtesy of Angie’s List. Sources: Statue of Liberty History (2009), history.com; White House (2019) scholastic.com; Fallingwater (2019) fallingwater.org; Radio City Music Hall (2019) msg.com; Space Needle (2019) spaceneedle.com; Willis Tower (2019) architecture.org; Trinity Church (2017) theculturetrip.com. 


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