Example poetry

Alfonso Morone, the poetry of manhole covers in cities

Present in the literary and cinematographic story, the manhole is part of the imagination of the city, and it is an element that is only apparently marginal. Less well known is its history as an artifact linked to the progression of technology in urban areas, from Victorian-era sewage systems to smart cities.

An interesting photographic essay retraces its evolution based on the archives of organisations, producers and period catalogues, questioning the nature of production and design of the graphic component of the engraved motif. So much so that at the end of the volume the author offers his own taxonomy (almost a ‘grammar of ornamentation’ from the manhole of graphic signs to logos) which redraws 248 examples from a selection of around 500 photographed pieces by Enzo Papa in all regions of Italy.

“In their many versions with siphons, drains, grids and hatches, they are one of the few, but perhaps the only, industrial products that do not have an expiry date or that require a technological update”, writes the author, again emphasizing how its production in cast iron has always made this object recyclable: an excellent example of “circular design”.

This is underlined in the foreword by Giulio Iacchetti and Matteo Ragni, winners in 2014 of the Compasso d’Oro for the design of several manholes, recalling to what extent the category of products in question belongs to street furniture and emphasizing the democratic character (everyone walks on in any context) of what they call an “urban coating”.

Tombini from Italy. Dal progetto grafico al design del prodotto
Alphonse Morone
LetteraVentidue, 2022
320 pages, 35 €


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