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Manholes – Research

Mar 2009

Channels, or drainage conduits, were created underneath the streets in an effort to keep the waste away from the structures, and allow it to flow away from the residential areas. An initial problem was that the conduits leading away from the structures and to the actual underground drainage channels weren’t actually vertical. They were slanted. And waste didn’t flow easily to the channel, as there was no water pushing it forward. Maintenance workers were frequetly needed to shovel the waste clear of the conduits and into the channels.

However – there was no easy street access to the conduits, meaning the workers would have to either dig their way down, or most likely, enter through the actual toilet hole. The toilets themselves thus became manholes.

Extensive studies over many years were conducted to better determine the form and size of the conduits, and ensure that sanitation workers would have easier access to the system for maintenance.

Street level channels would lead to the waste conduits, giving access to the sewers, while also acting as ventilation to prevent gas build-up. These channels – or manholes – leading to the modern “Underworld” of society, needed obvious covers; easy for workers to access, yet hard for residents to accidentally fall in or steal. Round, cast-iron manhole covers were an efficient choice over square for a few simple reasons.

One reason were the actual conduits – the holes that had been dug and that were fortified with brick (in Victorian times), were cylindrical – the strongest form for the underground purpose (pressure equally distributed). The best fit for a cylinder is quite simply a round cover. Another reason was transportation and installation. Rolling covers could make life easier. Then – the shape could assist preventing the covers from falling in the manholes once removed (although additional ledges under the covers keep them in place).

Manhole Cover Design

Manhole cover design varies greatly from city to city, with each municipality balancing budget versus art. Some cities, such as Seattle, opted for a clever street map design on their covers, others went with city logos or seals. Most, though, choose a simple grid pattern, or checkered design. The reason behind a pattern or design on the covers is simple – traction – both for pedestrians, as for vehicles.

As of late, manhole cover design is no longer something to be treaded on lightly. Cities like Vancouver, Seattle, New York and Tokyo have decided to pursue commissioned designer covers, giving their cities more than just a curiousity. In competitions to find the best designs, these cities have their communities actively participating in waste awareness, while simultaneously promoting a brighter and livelier city.


Also in this article, the shape and patterns of several manholes covers are explained: click here

Permissions in the City – Interventions

Mar 2009

Who I can contact:

– 311: ask to who I should talk about permissions
– Mayor’s Office – have different departments
– Film Department at NYU
– Business Improvement District
– MTA Schedules Department
– Christina Ray – Conflux
– Creative Time ( look for press releases – person)
– LMCC (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council)
– City Council
– Grimshaw Architects – Responsible for street furniture

– Present the idea in concrete, explicit and well organized
– Talk about the materials that will be used
– Can always present the performance as a shooting scene

Manholes Design – First Sketches

Mar 2009

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Floatables by Husman Haque- 2004

Mar 2009

Floatables is a project that questions the distinctions between “public” and “private” space.

Floatables proposes the introduction of jellyfish-like vessels that drift around cities to create temporary, ephemeral zones of privacy: an absence of phone calls, emails, sounds, smells and thermal patterns left behind by others. Through various electrical systems they are also able to prevent access of GPS devices, television broadcasts, wireless networks and other microwave emissions. Finally, by creating a “blurry barrier” and a ground-plane camouflage pattern, they provide shielding from the unembarrassed gaze of security cameras and surveillance satellites.

Floating around urban environments, in the tradition of architecture that tries to break free from the confines of gravity, the vessels provide fleeting moments of private visual space, auditory space and olfactory space — occupants can wander in at will when they happen to catch sight of one nearby. The spaces of absence created here are left to be filled with people’s own sounds, alpha-waves, smells and laughters. The vessels are powered mainly by sunlight and wind but
are supplemented by inducted electricity from mobile phones and 802.11 networks (in crowded spaces this amounts to several dozen Watts of unexpended power). Buoyancy is achieved by heating or cooling air in a
floatation sac, much like hot air balloons. The entire structure can collapse or expand as necessary to alter surface area in response to wind speed and altitude. The vessels have no particular destinations and drift like flotsam around the city. However, they must keep moving because to be discovered by the authorities means almost certain destruction.

It seems an interesting concept but hard to put in practice. Maybe too much stuff in the same “device”.

Cellphone Detector – Circuit not working yet

Mar 2009



Motion Sensor for PhoneBooth

Mar 2009

Trying the figure it out which sensor is best for track people on the street. Playing with IR sensors, PIR and sonar. Going to take them to the park and test it around on the streets.The solution could be to use them together.


Painting Materials – Test

Mar 2009



Hacking a Phone Handset to play Mp3

Mar 2009

Based on an article on Make Magazine vol.16.

1.Open the earpiece on the headset
2.Cut the wires and change the speaker ( the old speaker are not tuned for MP3)
3.Solder the 2 wires of the speaker
4.Find the terminal plug inside the phone itself. Is contains 4 wires ( 2 for the earpiece, 2 for the mouthpiece)
5. With a multimeter see which wires connects to the speaker and then mark each wire.
6. get an audio connector and solder those two wires to it. One is ground; other is left or right channel – choose one.
7. It’s done!! Now connect the audio plug to your Ipod and listen the sound into the handset






Sensing when the Bus Arrive

Mar 2009

To detect when the bus arrives, there are two possibles ways: sensing the sound or sensing vibration using an accelerometer. Both circuits are build and connected to a datalogger ( LogoMatic V2).



Next: Test both sensors in the street + graph Data

RFID sniffer workshop

Mar 2009

RFID sniffer workshop: “

Mediamatic is organising two RFID Sniffer workshops in Amsterdam on Friday March 27 or on Saturday April 4 2009. At this workshop you can assemble your own RFID Sniffer circuit with designer Marc Boon.


The RFID sniffer is a simple analog electronic circuit which can detect the presence of 13.56 MHz RFID tags. These tags are commonly used in all kinds of plastic cards like access badges, bank cards, library cards, loyalty cards and so on.

RFID is everywhere. Use the easy to build RFID sniffer to find out if objects are tagged. Also many other objects may carry RFID tags without you knowing it. Books, toys, and even clothing might be tagged. Carrying tagged objects with you can reveal your identity or whereabouts to anyone equipped with the appropiate tools to read RFID tags. The RFID sniffer helps you identify which objects are tagged, and which are not.


Looks like a great workshop! And the Sniffers are available to buy from here.

Related things:

  1. RFID & the internet of things Julian Bleecker, Arie Altena and I will be participating at…
  2. Workshop: Near field interactions This is a call for proposals for a workshop on…
  3. Touch at Recalling RFID I will be presenting at Recalling RFID in Amsterdam…

(Via Touch.)



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