There are myriad structures and objects in the built environment that many of us rarely give a second thought to, like the materials that make sidewalks and streets, the pipe systems below the pavement, or the manhole covers that keep those networks secure and provide essential access. In Japan, though, form follows function in a recent tradition of creating manhole covers that feature bold and colorful designs.
Video creators Process X visited the Hinode factory to document the manufacture of the ubiquitous lids from start to finish. Workers first melt metal and stamp the molten material into a form that produces a distinctive raised outline. The covers are then cooled and transported to a station where others hand-paint the details, heat the pigments to create a durable finish, and ready them for installation.
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Japan’s aesthetic solution to an otherwise banal infrastructural object is thought to have originated back in the mid-1980s when municipalities were invited to design their own manhole covers, making costly sewerage updates more palatable. Following a handful of local contests and documentation by photographers and publications, the phenomenon continues to add vivid, unexpected designs to everyday surfaces.
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