Manhole covers are typically passed by without a glance. At their most basic level, they’re used to protect manholes, creating a sturdy barrier between the outside world and sewers. However, traditional cast iron manhole covers have not always been the best solution.
For one thing, manhole theft is extremely common. In fact, 10,000 manholes were stolen in Calcutta, India over the course of just one month. Traditional manhole covers are also heavy — 200 pounds heavy — which poses a great deal of danger for the public. Sometimes, electrical currents and pressure from underground will cause the manhole to pop off. These terrifying “manhole events” have the potential to seriously damage buildings and kill innocent people.
Consequently, composite manhole covers are now used as a durable alternative. These covers weigh up to 85% less than a traditional cast iron cover and require little to no maintenance over its 30 plus year lifespan.
But while traditional cast-iron manhole covers might be a thing of the past in the United States, there has been a great deal of international media about the beauty of manhole covers. If you did a double-take there, it’s understandable. In Japan and London, uniquely designed manhole covers have become an artistic statement and cultural landmark of sorts. Check out the way these two countries turn ordinary manholes into works of art:
In western Tokyo, the municipal government has made some spooky additions to traditional covers. On the covers, they have installed images of characters from the popular manga show, “GeGeGe no Kitaro” at six locations surrounding the Keio Line’s Chofu Station. The covers feature a variety of designs, all based on the characters created by Shigeru Mizuku, who passed away one year ago. The project was a means of commemorating the late artist who grew up in Chofu and was also a way to attract Mizuku’s fans to the area.
Artist Marina Willer couldn’t help but notice how intricately designed the covers of manholes in London were. So, to commemorate them, Willer created a print book that celebrates the beautiful designs through neon-colored rubbings that transfer their pattern to paper.