manhole covers seal off and provide entry to an underground world of conduits, water mains, power lines, and sewers.
italian designers giulio iacchetti and matteo ragni have been working together with the montini foundry since 2006 and during this time they have
designed drains and cast-iron manhole covers for public as well as private spaces. the design is almost totally focused on the surface finish of where
the objective - despite the narrowness of the range - was to avoid an outcome which was merely graphic decoration.
every manhole cover tries to tell a story, a narrative of the city and its surroundings - for example, one is using a graphic which represents the trail left by
a tire, to underline the idea that the manhole cover could endure regular urban traffic.
manhole cover and close-up
the design with footprints of birds is for use in private parks and gardens.
manhole cover and close-up
with other iterations the designers have set out to make the very idea of the material visible:
they have used nodular cast iron, a special alloy used by montini that is made even harder through treatment of the surface
(strengthened by having the graphite content in the form of nodules rather than flakes).
this is the case, for example, with the manhole cover which carries a drawing of a sphere and the one decorated with a photographic enlargement of the
physical structure of the material.
finally there is a pattern that makes use of an optic illusion.
the covers usually feature 'pick holes', into which a hook handle tool is inserted to lift them.
pick holes can be concealed for a more watertight lid, or can allow light to shine through.
a manhole pick or hook is typically used to lift them, though other tools can be used as well, including electromagnets.
a manhole cover sits on metal base, with a smaller inset rim which fits the cover
date back at least to the era of ancient rome (which had sewer grates made from stone).
today, they appear by the thousands in our cities, but very few people ever look at them or think about them as art.
while these ubiquitous objects are essentially functional and completely ordinary, more recently artists and designers have found creative ways to add to their aesthetic.
all across the world, manhole covers are now custom made for individual towns and cities and show images of cultural history, from flora and fauna,
to landmarks and local festivals...
chandigarh manhole cover,depict the master plan of the city, designed by le corbusier, (c.1955)
beijing's historic hutong dashilar has its own manhole covers
image © designboom
can you spot it? this is a manhole cover in florida -- right in the center there is mickey mouse !
in japan, the art of manhole covers has now reached the point of a national obsession, with numerous municipal departments competing against each other in the pursuit of the perfect manhole cover