The Artists & Art of the 2013 Ironclad Art Manhole Design Challenge

The Ironclad Art Design Challenge announced at an award ceremony two winners on Saturday, June 1, 2013 at the Interurban Gallery. Each created unique manhole cover designs that will come to life in the streets of Vancouver. The Sanitary Sewer design winner is Andrew Dexel and the Storm Sewer design winner is Nigel Dembicki.

Two winning designs (one for each type of sewer) were selected from a shortlist of 28 artists. The two grand prize winners received $2,000 each.

“The exceptional quality of the ideas submitted in this year’s Ironclad Art design challenge showcase the incredible depth and diversity of Vancouver’s vibrant artistic community,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “It’s fantastic to see the City’s public art program working with our Engineering department and such talented local artists to make Vancouver an even more beautiful community. Congratulations to the winners for their remarkable contributions and I look forward to seeing their work around Vancouver!”

A jury of professional artists and sustainability experts selected a short list of 28 artists who are receiving a basket of passes to cultural and recreational events throughout the city. From that shortlist, the panel selected the two best designs to go on storm and sanitary sewer covers throughout the city.

This design by Nigel Dembicki was the winner of the Storm Sewer Design.

This design by Nigel Dembicki was the winner of the Storm Sewer Design. Click to the image above to see a larger version.

This design by Andrew Dexel was the winner of the Sanitary Sewer Design.

This design by Andrew Dexel was the winner of the Sanitary Sewer Design. Click the image above to see a larger version.

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 quality and contributing to a greener Vancouver.


image - Ironclad Art - Nigel Dembicki - Storm Sewer Design

Nigel Dembicki – storm design

Nigel is a Vancouver based artist and designer. He is a contributing partner of studioCAMP, a design/build collective studio interested in human scale spatial interventions.  His recent work with studioCAMP includes a solo installation “More or Less” at Shudder Gallery, the design/build of “The Bendch,” a forty foot bending bench for the City of Vancouver in partnership with the VIVA Vancouver program, and a contributing author of “Smartphones: The New Automobile” as part of the Tyee Idea Series. He is currently on the organizing committee for City Commons, a city wide place-making initiative of the Vancouver Tool Library. Nigel holds an honours degree in Environmental Design from the University of British Columbia and is entering the Master of Architecture program at Arkitektskolen Aarhus in Denmark this fall. Learn more at:

Artist Statement about the winning work — Water is a defining element of Vancouver that both imposes a physical definition to the shape of our city and is also a constant ephemeral element of life in Vancouver. Sheets of clouds, drops of rain and masses of water serve as a simple depiction of the cyclical omnipresence water has on the atmosphere, geography and life within our city.

Jury Comments — The jury appreciated the clarity and technical execution of this contemporary-looking work. They found it to be a design that worked from multiple angles; when turned upside down, the clouds looked like water. While appearing somewhat abstract as a whole, the symbolism of the purpose very clear. Technically, it was felt to be one of the strongest designs presented and one that would work well in the casting medium.

image - Ironclad Art - Andrew Dexel - Sanitary Sewer Design

Andrew (Enpaauk) Dexel – sanitary design

Andrew is from the Nlakapamux Nation and is known for how his prints and paintings. often fuse graffiti and North West Coast Art.  He uses bold, unconventional colours and abstract elements in his compositions to create an innovative and contemporary fusion between graffiti and North West Coast Art. His aim is to create unique transcultural works, and to compose modern day interpretations of traditional forms, stories and teachings to inspire future generations. Learn more at:

Jury Comments — While acknowledging that this design may have an ambiguous relationship to sewers, the jury found it to be an extremely distinctive work that looked fantastic as a two dimensional design. They found it playful and appreciated how well the artist applied the work to the shape. They also felt that it was a work that would hold up through time.

Art Underfoot - images - celebration event - Ballot Box


Voting continues until June 8th for two People’s Choice awards. School participation awards will also be selected. To learn more about the competition or to vote for the People’s Choice awards, visit ironclad or find us on Facebook at /vanculture or on Twitter @VanCultureBC.

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