Hackescher Markt, Mitte
"Under Our Feet" - Manhole Covers in Berlin
Special exhibition in the photo technology department
2 November 2010 to 27 February 2011
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.
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.
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.