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Ironclad Art Challenge: Expressing our spirit, values, and vision for a sustainable future

Manholes give City maintenance workers access to the sewer and water systems.

With your help, the Public Art Program and Engineering Department are turning our streets into dynamic public art sites — with a message:

Our actions directly impact the environment.

We invited Vancouver artists to submit designs for sanitary- and storm-sewer manhole covers that feature the City's commitment to keep local waterways healthy.

Over 1,000 submissions were received from artists of all levels.

Winning designs

A jury of professional artists and sustainability experts chose two winning designs (one for each type of sewer) from a shortlist of 28 artists. The winners were announced at an award ceremony on June 1, 2013, at the Interurban Gallery, 1 East Hastings Street. The Sanitary Sewer design winner is Andrew Dexel and the Storm Sewer design winner is Nigel Dembicki.


Sanitary sewer winning design
by Andrew Dexel

Storm sewer winning design
by Nigel Dembicki

The winning designs highlight the importance of our separated sewer system. As the City replaces and upgrades old sewer mains each year, two new pipes are laid to help prevent flooding and eliminate overflow into Vancouver’s waterways. The competition increases citizens’ environmental awareness and the importance of improving our water

People's Choice winning designs

The People's Choice award winners are Les Blydo and Lou-ann Neel. These two winning designs were submitted for both sanitary sewer and storm sewer manhole covers.

Winning  People's Choice manhole cover  design - Les Blydo

People's Choice winning design
by Les Blydo

Winning  People's Choice manhole cover  design - Lou-ann Neel

People's Choice winning design
by Lou-ann Neel

Prizes and awards

The two winning artists chosen by the jury received $2,000. All winning artists (including the People's Choice awards) and shortlisted artists will receive a pack of culture and recreation tickets to: Bard on the Beach, Science World, Museum of Vancouver, Vancouver Maritime Museum, Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation facilities.

Selected school submissions will receive a gift certificate from Opus Art Supplies.

Why separated sewers and public art matter

By 2050, Vancouver will have separate sewer sytems for stormwater run-off and sewage. This upgrade will help prevent flooding and eventually eliminate the overflow of sewage into waterways. Wherever you see two sewer manholes in the street, you know that the neighbourhood’s sewer system is up-to-date and contributing to a greener Vancouver.

The City's public art program provides opportunities to experience art in everyday life, through artworks that express the spirit, values, visions, and poetry of places that collectively define Vancouver.

Creatively designed manhole covers turn our streets into dynamic art sites that highlight the environmental importance of our sewer system.

Did you know?

The Ironclad Art Challenge follows up on the similar 2004 Art Underfoot competition.

Artful manhole covers: it's not just Vancouver

Many other cities around the world embellish manhole covers. 

Cities such as London, New York, Minneapolis, Seattle, Calgary, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto are just a few examples. 

Explore manhole designs from around the world:

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Learn more about Vancouver's water system

Separated sewer main installation

Separating sewage from rainwater

We are installing separated sewer lines to replace the combined sewer system. Find out why we are separating them.

What you can do

It's important to be water wise every day to protect our water. Find out how you can reduce your water use and protect our waterways.

Previous winners