Most people don’t spend much time thinking about manhole covers.
These gateways to the underground are usually the jurisdiction of a select few utilities specialists. Several locales, however, have used the iron façade of the manhole as a canvas, adding some local flair and creativity to a drab slab.
These 6 unique manhole covers from around the world highlight works of art that can go unnoticed - even right beneath our feet.
6 Unique Manhole Covers from Around the World
1) The Millennium Manhole Cover, New York
The Millennium Manhole Cover was the result of a design competition sponsored by Con Edison for the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square that marked the arrival of the year 2000. Winning designer Karim Rashid paid tribute to the "Energy and Ideas for the Millennium" theme, and saw the design added to multiple cast iron manhole covers that were installed throughout the Big Apple.
Credit: Matthew Gomez/DeviantArt
2) Ulefoss, Norway
Ulefos Jernværk, founded in 1657, is one of the oldest manufacturing businesses in Europe. Most of Norway’s manhole covers are made by Ulefos, a leading manufacturer of street castings in the Nordic countries. This cover, made for Ulefos Jernværk’s home city of Ulefoss, features the city logo cast in brass.
Credit: Manhole Covers of the World
3) Minneapolis, Minnesota
In 1990, during a renovation of the Nicollet Mall, the city of Minneapolis commissioned artist Kate Burke to create manhole cover designs that would be installed throughout 13 blocks of the city’s downtown district. Burke crafted images that reference state and local emblems like the Walleye, Minnesota’s state fish.
Credit: Eric Grundhauser/Atlas Obscura
4) Shimamoto, Osaka, Japan
Customized, artistic manhole covers are an attraction throughout Japan that few outsiders are aware of. The exact origin of these features is hard to pin down. Some attribute the trend to a construction ministry bureaucrat, who recommended that municipalities design their own manhole covers in 1985 as part of a plan to make expensive sewer projects more acceptable for taxpayers.
Credit: This is Colossal/S. Morita
5) Seattle, Washington
Since 1976, the city of Seattle has commissioned some 115 custom designs for manhole covers that are still in use throughout the city. The program was started by Seattle’s Community Development department head (and future mayor) Paul Schell, who was looking for a way to incorporate public art throughout the city. The pieces officially belong to the city’s utility providers and are used or stored as needed, just like standard manhole covers.
The inscription on this one reads: "Seattle is made up of Doer's, Don'ters, Doubters and Deadheads" -- Bill Speidel, 1912-1988 -- Father of Seattle's Underground.
Credit: Curbed/Grady Tripp
6) Disneyland, Anaheim, California
The fountain at the center of Disneyland’s Toontown features Mickey Mouse with an orchestra conductor’s baton, surrounded by a gathering of musical instruments. Near the fountain, the same musical instruments are imprinted on manhole covers, and if you step or jump on them, you will hear the sounds of that instrument playing.
Credit: Mental Floss/Flickr
Southland Tool offers the best equipment available for sewer and sanitation workers who work around and beneath manhole covers every day. To find out more, click here for our product catalog, call (714) 632-8198 or send us an email.