London's Manhole Covers as Art

The gateways to London’s subterranean utilities are given their due in Marina Willer’s Overlook.

Image Pentagram/Marina Willer
Pentagram/Marina Willer

You’d be forgiven for never noticing the intricacies of a manhole cover design. That is, until you’ve seen Marina Willer’s latest project.

While London’s changing skyline keeps turning heads, the Pentagram partner wants to bring out the beauty of one of the city’s most utilitarian objects underfoot.

Overlook, the latest Pentagram Paper—a series of self-commissioned print projects by the design firm—celebrates manhole covers through neon-colored rubbings that transfer their patterns to paper.

Pentagram/Marina Willer

There are 22 of them in Overlook, each one showing off details most people wouldn’t likely find on their own. Willer accompanies her prints with text that explains the role each cover plays in London’s subterranean world.

Pentagram Papers are mostly distributed among friends and clients, but Willer’s project is a little too good to keep to such a small audience. Until they reappear in a gallery or book someday, however, we’ll just have to settle for photos of the prints.

About the Author

  • Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design, history, and photography.