Researchers have designed a series of cutaway illustrations to show people what's inside London's most famous buildings from the Gherkin to No 10 Downing Street.

Travel News - central london
The Gherkin in London.

Behind London's most famous buildings hide a multitude of secrets, woven into the fabric of their complex infrastructure. Many people never get to see what's inside, so, to satisfy their curiosity, researchers teamed up with architect Laurentiu Stanciu and online lender QuidCorner to design a series of cutaway or cross-section illustrations that bring to life the hidden details contained inside some of these iconic structures.

Travel News - 10 Downing Street
The Prime Minister's meeting room (centre) of No. 10 Downing Street.

10 Downing Street is the official residence of Britain's prime minister and the government headquarters. Designed by Kenton Couse and opened in 1684, it contains some 100 rooms across three connected 17th-century buildings. The cutaway shows a suite of drawing rooms on the first floor, with offices and the prime minister's meeting room (centre room) below.

Travel News - King's Cross
The complex tunnels of London's King's Cross station.

London's King's Cross Underground is one of the city's busiest stations and home to Platform 9 and ¾, the departure point for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter books. It's been transformed many times since it first opened in 1843. In the above cutaway you can see an x-ray vision of the latest revamp, the steel and glass Western Concourse which was part of a £500m redevelopment for the 2012 Olympics.

Travel News - The Gherkin
See the hidden shafts that make The Gherkin energy efficient.

The illustrations also peel back the skin of the Gherkin, the enormous stretched egg or glass pickle at the heart of London's financial district. In the drawing you can see the famous exposed shafts hidden under each floor of the building which make the glazed skyscraper more energy efficient than similarly-sized buildings by expelling hot air in the summer and utilising the sun's light and heat in the winter.

Travel News - Big Ben
The buildings featured include the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben and a little known prison.

By studying images and floor plans of Elizabeth Tower (home to Big Ben), researchers were able to paint an accurate representation of what it looks like inside. The tower’s 11 floors include a mini-museum, a storeroom, and 334 steps (plus another 59 to the Ayrton Light which comes on when parliament is in session). It was also home to a prison at one stage but the last occupant was MP Charles Bradlaugh in 1880.

Travel News - The Barbican
An x-ray view of the Barbican. Image by QuidCorner

A glimpse beneath the surface gives a much clearer idea of just what goes into the planning and maintenance of such elaborate structures. It's hard to get an overview of an enormous complex like the Barbican, home to London's Symphony Orchestra, but these images show a maze of walkways, stairwells and auditoriums, connected by interlocking walkways.

If these images have piqued your interest in London, check out Lonely Planet's guide to the city's top 12 attractions for first-timers here.

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