An Innovative Way To Draw Focus To A Major Problem

by Emma Cueto

You don't tend to think of manholes as nice places to fall into, but you might if you're in Milan. Artist Biancoshock has turned manholes into mini-rooms in the Italian city. But the project isn't whimsical so much as it's a way of making people think about a very serious problem: Homelessness.

The homelessness rate is rising in Italy, including in Milan. And in many cities in Europe, especially Bucharest, many homeless people attempt to live in city sewer systems. As Biancoshock explains on his website, the project, titled Borderlife, focuses on that problem. "If some problems can not be avoided, make them comfortable," he writes. "Intervention that, parodically [sic], speaks about people forced to live in extreme conditions, even coming to live in manholes."

The Borderlife installations turn underground spaces into "rooms" modeled on what one might find in a traditional house; however, the cramped nature of the space, as well as the unexpected angle, serve to make the spaces seem distorted and unsettling in a way that underscores how unsuited for human habitation they still are. Each room is different, but they all serve to underscore the point that people are not meant to live underground — and they shouldn't have to.

In Bucharest, an estimated 600 or so people live in the city's underground sewer system, according to Biancoshock. Reports indicate that many were once in Romania's state orphanages, which were shut down after reports in the 1990s revealed mass neglect and abuse of children. Homelessness and HIV addiction are also common among the Bucharest homeless population. It's a problem that has quite literally been pushed underground — meaning anything that gets people to look down and think is probably a good thing in terms of addressing the issue.

You can find out more about Biancoshock and the installation on his website here, or on Facebook or Instagram.

Images: Getty Images; courtesy of Biancoshock/Instagram (3)