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A few weeks ago we went back to check on Territory’s first people spot, a social space for McCutcheon Elementary School in Uptown, designed and built by 33 Chicago high school students in the summer of 2013. In that year of mass school closings, Chicago Public Schools had designated McCutcheon a “receiving” school for three other elementary schools in the surrounding area. As the nearby schools were shuttered or consolidated, McCutcheon expanded, re-opening a portable classroom building on the 4800 block of N. Kenmore Avenue as a middle school campus.

We called the project a “Welcoming front yard.” During our six week summer program, our team in Uptown designed, built and installed two different seating areas, an interactive mural, modular panels featuring superheroes, and stencils enlivening the entry walkway with colorful sea creatures.

McCutcheon middle school campus in September 2013

After five years of use, the stencils are faded, and the super hero panels are gone – removed when the building was repainted a neutral gray. The two sitting areas are there, but the “planter benches” no longer straddle the concrete culvert sections. Lined up against the chain link fence, the glorious blue benches welcome everyone at the gate and provide a an essential social space in the school’s asphalt front yard.

Territory Urban Design Team displaying their handiwork in preparation for the installation at McCutcheon in 2013