Not that Vancouver is dull but its electrical utility boxes sure are. They sit there like bumps on a log, unadorned grey boxes that control the overhead lights. Every city has them. They’re necessary but oh so ugly. So Vancouver, like cities the world over, has started to cover its municipal utility boxes in festive wrapping, not the Christmas kind but in original art works commissioned from local artists and transferred to heavy duty vinyl which encases the offending eyesore. The goal is to spruce up the streetscape and discourage tagging. Eleven boxes along Granville Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, have been decorated.
The Wrap Project, as it’s called, is a joint venture between the city’s Downtown Improvement Association and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Two hundred designs were submitted from which 11 were selected. Most of the winning entries came from Emily Carr’s Illustration students.
Susan Stewart, Dean of the Faculty of Culture and Community says the Faculty’s mandate is to reach out to the community through curriculum and projects. The Wrap Project gives students a taste of designing for the real world. “In a sense these [the boxes] are the clients for the students. It’s one of the learning outcomes,” she says.
West coast themes are heavily represented – cherry blossoms, forests, seaplanes and the urban jungle itself. A Mall for Some Bunnies, for instance, offers a lighthearted look at shopping downtown. If you’re a bunny.
“It’s a total win-win. I think these boxes are really cheerful,” says Stewart. “You take the bus down Granville and you see student work on each box. It’s kinds of lovely.”
The current designs will remain in place for two years after which another contest will be held to replace the existing covers with new ones. There are plans to expand the makeovers to other parts of the city as well.