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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Luminato: Yonge-Dundas Square now automatic for the people

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WHAT: Silent Dance Party (part of Light on Your Feet)
WHEN: Sat Jun 7/Sun Jun 8, 12am-2am
WHERE: Yonge-Dundas Square

We mentioned this event in yesterday’s Luminato roundup, but it deserves special mention because it’s part of a massive installation in everybody’s favorite and uncontroversial public space: Yonge-Dundas Square. Many dozens of balloons have been strung above the square, and the LED lights inside will respond to the noise of the crowd below. When folks pass through Dundas Square, they usually don’t have any control over the media that surrounds them. This installation might help us feel more at home there because for once, the people start to control the space, albeit somewhat passively. Tomorrow night, a special silent dance party is planned. For all those would-be ravers who can’t stand the intense volume of traditional parties, now is your chance to participate:

Bring your mp3 player and headphones to Yonge-Dundas Square and dance silently to a set compiled by DJ AC Slater, with interactive lighting by Gabe Sawhney, Patrick Dinnen and David McCallum. This event is (the coolest) part of the Light on Your Feet program of dance lessons and general movement encouragement happening on the square. To download the entire set, click the link below.
click here [155MB]

For more background information, read Ivor Tossell’s Globe and Mail article from Saturday. An excerpt that gets at the scale of this installation, and how people may interact with it, is here:

Stringing 250 oversized PVC balloons, each 1.2 to 1.8 metres in diameter, from kilometres of specially ordered nautical ropes isn’t as simple as it sounds. Contractors had to be found who could tie the nautical knots that hold it all together. Lashing everything down requires the force of 73 concrete cubes – the engineers involved say the weight is equivalent to three lanes of Volvos encircling the square. Custom-made telephone poles will be used as masts to stay the ropes, each placed in footings designed to provide the necessary “give” to the flexing structure. The problem isn’t just weight, but wind.

“When you have 250 balloons side by side, you have the biggest sail in Toronto,” says KPMB’s Brad Hindson, who is managing the project. (KPMB provided its services to the festival pro bono.)

The installation is keeping an eye toward the environment; helium being an increasingly scarce resource, the balloons are being inflated with air instead, and donated afterward to professors at York University, who can use them for atmospheric research. Meanwhile, the entire project is designed to come and go without so much as scuffing the square below. Not that, surrounded by blaring light boards and the hulk of just-completed multiplex Toronto Life Square, it’s necessarily a neutral venue.

“Dundas Square has always been a contested space. Is it public? Is it not public?” notes Gabe Sawhney, the artist who is responsible for the interactive lighting installation. “Whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting.”

Mr. Sawhney and his colleagues will be patrolling the square with their laptops throughout the event, using a wireless network to continually adjust the lighting. He says he is particularly interested in seeing how the public interacts with the installation in the hours after the crowds have dispersed. “People will be interested in sticking around to play around with the lights and give it a shot for it themselves,” he says.

Event photos by Sam Javanrouh, photos of installation-in-progress by Gabe Sawhney



  1. AC Slater rules! 😀 Which is why we flew him and Udachi last weekend to play for us 🙂

  2. Great DJ set and I enjoy the Flash stream, but…where exactly is this mythic download link we need to participate?