Manhole covers are perhaps the ultimate piece of urban infrastructure — specific to cities, they are the portals to a whole world of civic engineering beneath our feet. They’ve inspired several Spacing stories over the years. Last Sunday, the Star ran a great story by origins of Toronto’s particular manhole cover design.about the
I had always thought of it as a kind of non-design — the manhole cover you get when no-one makes an effort — but the Star reveals that it was, in fact, designed by Toronto’s official photographer in the first half of the 20th century, Arthur S. Goss. The article gave me a new appreciation of this ubiquitous piece of civic design. The author notes:
Look harder, and Toronto’s cast-iron manholes show a muscular beauty, a brutalist charm. With their grey-iron grid of square shapes and perforations, they resemble waffle irons. Designed in 1910, in a pattern typical of the era, they embody the robust, turbulent city of the early 20th century.