Re-Covering the Cityscape: Impressions of History Underfoot is a public art project that commemorates lost New York City history through the installation of a series of uniquely cast manhole covers. The patterned surfaces of ten new sets of manhole covers have been designed by native New York based artist Michele Brody to reference the history and architectural details of eight buildings that have been demolished and two sites in Manhattan that no longer exist. These unique covers will replace a select group of extant ones situated in the sidewalks adjacent to the location of these disappeared landmarks.
As a form of relief sculpture, they will subtly accentuate the existence of a familiar fixture within the cityscape. Rather than proposing a monumental form of visual intervention, they quietly reward the attentive pedestrian with an art form that doubles as a commemorative plaque. The covers continue to preserve the rich graphic tradition of manhole cover design, as well as paying tribute to vanished architecture and historically significant sites. Simultaneously, these "public works" serve as functional portals to the city’s underground services.
By working with the blank canvas of the manhole cover, architectural details, historic textual references, and land formations are abstracted through the formation of a radiating Mandala upon which the experience of the city and its history can be meditated.
© Michele Brody, 2001