Whose Streets


a Sound Installation

Whose Streets, Whose Sounds? 
Streetscapes and Soundscapes in Toronto’s Kensington Market 

Kensington Market Soundscape Study

Kensington Market is Toronto’s best-known immigrant and bohemian market district, historically known for its affordability, social tolerance, community activism, and sometimes rowdy social life. Loud conversations (friendly and unfriendly); buskers strumming acoustic guitars; DJs playing hours long electronic music sets; and delivery trucks loading in vegetables to the neighbourhood’s food sellers are some of the Market’s characteristic sounds.  Kensington becomes even louder and more vibrant with the May-October monthly car-free festival called Pedestrian Sundays (PSK), started by community members and now entering its third decade. After a pandemic hiatus, PSK returned in 2022. Its return was welcomed by some and dreaded by others who feared that PSK would “set the [noisy] tone” for the post-lockdown Market’s reputation as an “entertainment district” and make it difficult for some heritage businesses to operate. Local condominium development, housing and commercial real estate unaffordability, and – most recently – the City’s proposed permanent pedestrianization of parts of the Market have further provoked community anxieties about Kensington’s future. Will it continue as a working market accessible to many, or will it be transformed into a “food court and playground for condo dwellers?”  

Since 2021, the Kensington Market Soundscape Study team has been documenting public realm sounds and conversations about sound of Kensington Market. Via an audio controller and headphones, we share a selection of our soundscape and soundwalk recordings of Pedestrian Sundays Kensington festival days, excerpts of community discourse on sound and pedestrianization, and excerpts of the City of Toronto’s proposed plans for Kensington. By manipulating audio controller sliders, users can adjust soundscape components by selectively increasing and reducing the volume of various channels. The installation is presented as a kind of artistic wish fulfillment, allowing users to mute, amplify, and otherwise exert a level of control over Kensington’s auditory environment not so easily accomplished in daily life. 


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