Description - Manhole Covers by Mimi Melnick
They lie underfoot, embellished and gleaming. They seal off and provide entry to an underground world of conduits, water mains, power lines and sewers. They appear by the thousands in our cities, but very few people ever look at them or think about them as art. At once completely ordinary and totally unexpected, manhole covers present an infinite variety of design in the commonplace as well as a record of defunct utility companies, forgotten business firms and obsolete foundries. This text documents this singular form of urban industrial art and its place in American culture, with over 200 photographs and an extended narrative documenting manhole covers throughout the United States and discussing the history of their use, manufacture, and function. A subject that at first seems straightforward and commonplace becomes redolent and poetic in the author's hands, for their hieroglyphic reading of manhole covers reveals a chapter of urban history that can only be recovered from the logos and markings of these early disks.
There are square lids, convex lids, perforated lids and the older ones wear an astonishingly diverse range of anything-but-blank faces expressed in raised crosses, waffle grids, cut-out diamonds, radial stars, floral patterns and honeycomb treads. The diversity of design corresponds to an equally diverse typology of form and function, as indicated by their evocative labels: handholes, vents, coalholes, grates, lampholes, storm drains, steam covers, meter lids and traffic buttons.
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(254mm x 254mm x 19mm)
Publisher: MIT Press Ltd
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