Camden Community Center
Located just across the Ben Franklin Bridge from Philadelphia, North Camden, NJ is a city in distress. Once the proud home of some of the wealthiest pillars of Philadelphia society, Camden has declined into a state of corruption and despair. In 2004, North Camden achieved a rare triumvirate among US cities – highest murder rate, highest rate of unemployment, and lowest average income.
The Camden Community Center project had its start as Matthew Griffith’s thesis project at the NCSU College of Design. The aim of the project was to unearth the missing social program elements in the city and incorporate them into a single building tied to existing infrastructure. Sited at the nexus of Main Street in North Camden, an existing bus line, an abandoned pedestrian tunnel connecting North Camden to downtown Camden and Rutgers’ Camden Campus, and the subway line emerging from the ground to cross the Delaware River with the Ben Franklin Bridge, the center is designed to become a hub of healthy social activity. Outside, the design shelters shops, a bus stop, an exterior concert and film venue, and a farmers’ market. The building form also shelters a new city park, engages the pedestrian tunnel as a means of providing the activity necessary make reopening it safe, and proposes a new subway platform beneath the bridge. Inside, the building provides and new public library, employment resources, a reading room and speaking venue, classrooms, and a large performance venue.