giulio iacchetti and matteo ragni: cast iron manhole covers for montini foundry giulio iacchetti and matteo ragni: cast iron manhole covers for montini foundry
feb 15, 2013

giulio iacchetti and matteo ragni: cast iron manhole covers for montini foundry

manhole cover by giulio iacchetti and matteo ragni (design process 2006-2012)



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.


cast-iron manhole cover







wet surface










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.



manhole cover and close-up



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







manhole covers 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 coversimage © 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


  • It’s wonderful to consider upgrading such common items. They need to add Alligators for NYC.


    JimCan says:
  • fascinating thank you

    dadap says:
  • great idea!!!!

    PEDRO says:
  • How fun it to see other artists have noticed the creative side of manhole art. This is something that I have been working on for the past 3 years.

    DwightPritchett says:

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