Sewers in our culture (1)
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Manhole Covers as Art

"Attleboro Underfoot" by Bobbi Mastrangelo

"Attleboro Underfoot"

"Buffalo Water" by Bobbi Mastrangelo

"Buffalo Water"

"Celebration of Water" by Bobbi Mastrangelo

"Celebration of Water"

"Falling Water" by Bobbi Mastrangelo

"Falling Water"

"Manhattan DPW" by Bobbi Mastrangelo

"Manhattan DPW"

"Metropolitan Cover" by Bobbi Mastrangelo

"Metropolitan Cover"

"The Street Was Paved in Gold" by Bobbi Mastrangelo

"The Street Was Paved in Gold"



"Three Sewer Hitter" by Bobbi Mastrangelo

"Three Sewer Hitter"


The "Grate Artist" - Bobbi Mastrangelo

Artist Bobbi Mastrangelo of Poinciana, Florida, celebrates the beauty of manhole and utility covers in her inventive and beautifully textured multimedia pieces.

Recording the disappearing legacy of intricate cast iron manhole covers is an important element of her work. "When streets and sidewalks are repaved, the older lids are often replaced with modern, standardized covers. Because of our anti-pollution laws, many of our foundries closed. We now import many more covers from India and Brazil. Most of these designs are universal and plain. As I traversed the streets of Manhattan, I noticed the contrast in designs, shapes and purposes of the covers. Some of the oldest castings boasted intricate, artistic designs created by real craftsmen. After a while I realized that some of my artworks record the amazing patterns of older covers. So in essence, these are historic documentations." ( Interview by Sam Edsell at

Ms. Mastrangelo's art includes deeply embossed prints of manhole cover designs on her hand-made paper, transforming the mundane iron covers into jewel-like mandelas, and tromp ‘l oeil sculpture relief works that are so realistic that viewers wonder how she managed to put all that “weight “ up on the wall. Throughout her work, a love of the textures, designs and beauty of old manhole covers shines through.

People wonder how an artist can be addicted to such a topic as manhole covers. "Don't you get bored?" they ask. Bobbi's answer is "Not really. I have been dealing with this fascinating subject for thirty years. There is always something new to learn about these iron castings and their environments. The streets and sidewalks tell stories as do the covers that fit into their infrastructure. Their raised designs reflect the aesthetic interest of the region and their care reflects the attitude of the authorities that manage them." See more about Bobbi's work and some anecdotes about working with manhole covers (pdf).

Visit her website for a gallery of her artwork, and read an interview with her by Sam Edsell in the Mental Contagion online magazine.


(Link outside sewerhistory)

Sewers of the World Unite features a group of artists who use manhole covers as the inspiration for their artwork. Visit their Projects and Arts section and browse through the list of artists on the left.

(Link outside sewerhistory)

New York artist Mark Nilsen uses manhole covers and street detritus in his art.

(Link outside sewerhistory)

Kim Christiansen incorporates rubbings of manhole covers into her art.

(Link outside sewerhistory)

For over a year, 6emeia, a project created by SAO! and Delafuent, converted sewers into street art in São Paulo, Brazil.

See 6emeia website, Flickr photos, another gallery, and yet one more. Some photos of artists at work here.

(Links outside sewerhistory)

Top: A group of artist-designed manhole covers in Minneapolis (on the Internet Archives - the original site is gone. View our copy here.)

Middle: Seattle

Bottom: Vancouver

Decorated manhole cover in Seattle, Washington. The design, a Tlingit whale relief, is shown on the Hatchcover Art in Seattle website. Designed by Nathan Jackson and commissioned in 1976, this is one of only 32 castings made.

Source: Csilla Pall, Baden bei Wien, Austria.

Decorated manhole cover at the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo date 1997. Other decorated manhole covers at this mall can be seen on our US Manhole Cover pages under Minnesota.

Source: Pima County Wastewater Management Department, Tucson, Arizona.


Vail cover

Vail, Colorado, sells manhole cover replicas (lighter than the originals) for decorative use in gardens or any creative place you might have in mind.
Graphics Art about Sewers

(Link outside sewerhistory)

The Sewergator Sanctuary includes a section of artwork and literature related to alligators in sewers.

(Link outside sewerhistory)

Unusual pictures taken inside sewers.

Source: onzin.yarnostevens. nl

JAMES ALLEN, American (1894-1964), "Four Pipe Line," lithograph, 1937.

Guts of Manhattan, 1939, by Louis Lozowick, 1892-1973.
Lithograph. Printed by George Miller.

Realism and abstraction blend brilliantly in Guts of Manhattan, in which Louis Lozowick sketched the underground work he could see through the scaffolding during the construction of subway lines along Sixth and Eighth Avenues. During the Depression, Lozowick took advantage of the unprecedented opportunity offered by the WPA Federal Art Project, joining the Graphic Arts Division between 1938 and 1940.


Artwork by Rico Lebrun advertising the United States Pipe and Foundry Company, 1944 -- 72-inch flanged Y-branch.

Source: Sewage Works Journal, Volume XVI, No. 6 (November 1944), p. 22 (in advertising supplement).

Artwork by Rico Lebrun advertising the United States Pipe and Foundry Company, 1944 -- installing cement-lined bell-and-spigot cast iron pipe.

Source: Sewage Works Journal, Volume XVI, No. 5 (September 1944), p. 28 (in advertising supplement).

Sculptures, Clay, etc.

Sewer pipe clay vase. "Sewer tile art" -- clay art made after-hours in sewer pipe factories -- has become a collectible item. Workers made flower pots, animal-shaped doorstops, ashtrays, and pipe holders. Some information from the Antique Shoppe Newsletter, August 2007.

Source: Jon C. Schladweiler, Historian, Arizona Water Association.

(Link outside sewerhistory)

Cloacina, Goddess of the Sewers - sculpture by Canadian artist Ken Clarke. Cloacina was the Roman goddess of sewers - see article.

Source: Ken Clarke's Website

Statue of sewer worker in Stockholm, Sweden.

Source: Al Goodman, P.E., Principal, CDM (Camp Dresser & McKee), Louisville, Kentucky.

Statue of manhole entry, Bratislava, Slovakia. Photo date 1998.

Source: Dal Wayment.

Tom Otterness sculpture, part of "Life Underground," Metropolitan Transit Authority and Arts for Transit, 14th Street and 8th Avenue, New York, NY.

Source: Upper photo by D. James Dee, lower by


(Link outside sewerhistory)

The Toilet Seat Art Museum features numerous decorated seats by Barney Smith.

Sewer pipe hotel in Linz, Austria. The Dasparkhotel features hotel rooms inside concrete sewer pipes. See articles at Offbeat Homes and Sellsius Real Estate Blog.

If articles are offline, see content here.


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