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Photo courtesy of Sans Façon


WATERSHED+ is about a system, a city, and an emotional connection between citizens and their place in the environment, it offers complementary ideas about the role of the artist and how artwork can be created, responsive, and embedded.

Its guiding motive is to embed, not so much the artist, as their creative process within the core activities of a City department – Utilities & Environmental Protection (UEP) – responsible for the well-being and care of Calgary’s water resource. The program creates space for long-term, cross-disciplinary relationships and for collaborations to grow, fostering a curiosity about the city while sharing interests and multiple perspectives to explore how people connect to their environment.

It is an optimistic gesture, embodying a different mode of operation, a different reality, complimentary, responsive, richer, beyond silos. The legacy, beyond the works produced, is the effect it has had on all of those who have been involved (citizens, staff, artists) and the way we each think and feel, the connection we feel to one another’s work, our watershed, our environment, our city. [1]

Lift stations, a vital part of our wastewater system, are used throughout the city to lift wastewater from low-lying areas to higher areas where it can flow by gravity to one of our three wastewater treatment plants – in this case Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. Having been in commission since the 1960s, the Forest Lawn Lift Station had reached the end of its lifecycle and capacity.

Enticed by the anonymous structures found throughout our urban landscape, WATERSHED+ lead artists Sans façon focused on the process of revealing. Part of a much larger system, the lift station provided an opportunity to dissect how people in urban neighbourhoods connect to and understand the importance of water in their daily lives.

Clad in perforated metal sheeting, the newly commissioned lift station features a map of LED bar lights that, while appearing to be abstract, are actually an exact representation to scale of the pipe system in the community. Connected to sensors that monitor the flow of wastewater in the pipes, the lights change colour based on flow levels. The map gives us a glimpse into the hidden part of our environment, allowing us to see a fragment of the complex 4,500-kilometre wastewater system that helps make it possible for us to all live in an urban setting.

Identified as a WATERSHED+ initiative, the Forest Lawn lift station offered a unique opportunity to integrate art within the thinking and design of a new lift station. While perhaps not an expected avenue through which to intrigue and engage the public, the Forest Lawn lift station demonstrates how these types of “hidden” utilities, when considered beyond their function, can create discussion and dialogue about the wider system of water infrastructure throughout the city.

This progressive collaboration between artists, engineers and architects has resulted in a lift station that not only provides critical increased sanitary capacity to a growing community but also reveals a fragment of our complex system. [2]


[1]      “Watershed+.” Sans façon. Accessed August 11, 2021. http://Sansfacon.org/watershed.

[2]      “Forest Lawn Lift Station – Public Artwork.” https://www.calgary.ca. Accessed August 11, 2021. https://www.calgary.ca/csps/recreation/public-art/forest-lawn-lift-station-public-artwork.html.

Additional information:

“The Bright Lights of Sewage.” Canadian Consulting Engineer, September 22, 2015. https://www.canadianconsultingengineer.com/water-wastewater/the-bright-lights-of-sewage/1003401013/.

Forest Lawn Lift Station. YouTube. YouTube, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw4Xl0TmNVg.

“Forest Lawn Lift Station.” MTA, August 13, 2020. https://www.mtalink.com/pf/forest-lawn-lift-station/.

“Industrial Lighting Solutions: Nemalux Industrial.” Nemalux Industrial | Industrial & Hazardous Location Lighting. Accessed August 11, 2021. https://nemalux.com/.

“Lift Station.” Sans façon. Accessed August 11, 2021. https://www.sansfacon.org/lift-station.

Sans façon. Accessed August 11, 2021. https://www.sansfacon.org/.

“Watershed+.” watershedplus.ca. Accessed August 11, 2021. http://www.watershedplus.ca/.

Project Title: Forest Lawn Lift Station (part of Watershed+)
Artists:  Sans façon, MTa
Year: 2015

Place: Calgary, Alberta

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