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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Manhole Covers in Berlin

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

Stiftung

The donation contains six locations:

Photo: Square cover with a linear metal grid framing twelve rectangular inserts of thick green glass arranged in three rows of four. At the top the words "Allgemeine Stern", at the side a postcode dating from about 1870 that reads "Berlin S.W. 81".

Hackescher Markt, Mitte

Photo: Circular manhole cover with a pattern of concentric rings. Eight symmetrically arranged oval openings allow the cover to be lifted. The cover is surrounded by irregular grey cobblestones.

Gendarmenmarkt, Mitte

Photo: Square drain cover. A border of four parallel lines frames an elegant Jugendstil pattern. The design in the middle is a large star-shaped flower with openings between its petals to allow water to flow through.

Solmsstraße, Kreuzberg

"Under Our Feet" - Manhole Covers in Berlin

Special exhibition in the photo technology department

2 November 2010 to 27 February 2011

Photo: Square cover with a relief composed of many small squares. In the middle a solid fixture for lifting the cover, above it the word "gas" in capital letters. To the left a tiny plant is growing in the crack between cover and paving stones.

Neue Kantstraße, Charlottenburg

Thirty-four photographs of manhole covers by industrial designer Annett Stroetmann reveal a fascinating facet of industrial culture that we tend to walk over without noticing at all because it is, literally, part of the ground beneath our feet.

Doors to an Underground World

Manhole covers are the entry points to the underground pipes and shafts through which utility companies supply our energy, communications and water. The different shapes and designs of the covers and the materials of which they are made tell us about their age, the type of shaft they cover, and the utility they belong to. Covers come in different shapes and sizes, with a great variety of structure and design, as well as different kinds of base.

At prominent locations in Berlin's streets and squares we may even find genuine designer pieces if we look down. The new manhole covers for the Berlin Waterworks, for example, designed in 2005, feature reliefs of the city’s premier sights, such as the Brandenburg Gate and the TV Tower.

Photo: Circular manhole cover. A rusting iron part with four concentric rings surrounds a brass coat of arms showing Berlin’s bear rampant.

Schöneberg Town Hall

Yet these prosaic objects can be a great deal more outlandish. Crossing the world to Tokyo, we find that a manhole cover in Japan is not simply a lid covering a shaft, but an artistic emblem reflecting local history and colour.

Vita

Annett Stroetmann studied industrial design at the University of the Arts in Berlin and is a master goldsmith. After working as a designer in industry and running a firm with fellow graduates, she today runs her own design studio in Berlin-Wilmersdorf.