Even though they’re right under our car tires and sometimes our feet, it’s not very often that we notice the manhole covers that dot our city streets. These prolific round disks of metal hide the subterranean infrastructure of the world, allowing access to our sewers, fire-hydrants and subways, but they never really become obvious until they’re belching white steam in the cold winter months. Most of the manhole covers we see are bland slabs of metal with a manufacturers name embossed on the top, but the examples we bring you today go a long ways towards making these ubiquitous objects something to admire and maybe even call art.
Above: Hiroshima, Japan
Below: Dublin, Ireland
If you’re looking for the most elaborate and artful manhole covers, you need look no further than Japan. The island nation, famous for its careful attention to detail, doesn’t stop at manhole covers, easily producing the most creative and colorful designs. That’s because they’re painted too! The Japanese aren’t alone in using this art form to beautify their cities: the images collected here are from a flickr stream with over 14,000 images dedicated to the subject. If this is something you’ve never noticed before, spend some time looking down, exploring the art of the manhole and hunting for the most interesting examples nearby. You may be surprised how many unique designs you find.