Bell Labs Holmdel Complex

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Bell Labs Holmdel
Bell Labs Holmdel.jpg
Aerial view
General information
Type Research lab
Location Holmdel Township, New Jersey
Address 101 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel, New Jersey[1]
Coordinates 40°21′54″N 74°10′02″W / 40.36498°N 74.16730°W / 40.36498; -74.16730Coordinates: 40°21′54″N 74°10′02″W / 40.36498°N 74.16730°W / 40.36498; -74.16730
Construction started 1959[2]
Completed 1962[3]
Owner Somerset Development
Technical details
Floor count 6
Floor area 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2)[4]
Design and construction
Architect Eero Saarinen[5]
Other designers Sasaki, Walker & Associates[6]
Awards and prizes 1967 Laboratory of the year

The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex functioned for forty-four years as a research and development facility, initially for the Bell System.[3] The centerpiece of the 472-acre (1.91 km2) campus is an Eero Saarinen designed structure that served as the home to over 6,000 engineers and researchers.[4] This modernist building, dubbed "The Biggest Mirror Ever" by Architectural Forum, due to its mirror box exterior, was the site of at least one Nobel Prize discovery,[1][7] the laser cooling work of Steven Chu.


Before the present building, the site was used by Bell Telephone Laboratories for research, most notably Karl Guthe Jansky invented radio astronomy there. A monument was placed at the former location (40°21′54.5″N 74°09′48.9″W / 40.365139°N 74.163583°W / 40.365139; -74.163583) of the antenna almost seventy years later in 1998. The monument is a stylized sculpture of the antenna and is oriented as Jansky's antenna was at 7:10 p.m. on September 16, 1932, at a moment of maximum signal caused by alignment with the center of our galaxy in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.[8][9]

In 1957 the Bell Telephone Company began to plan a research laboratory in Holmdel Township, New Jersey[6] Constructed between 1959 and 1962, this complex was one of the final projects of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen before his death in 1961.[5] Used as a research and development complex, it served the needs of the Bell Laboratories division of Bell Telephone, later known as AT&T, Lucent, and Alcatel-Lucent.[6] Basic research, applied hardware development, and software development occurred in the building.

The building's distinctive features, including its mirror-like appearance, led to recognition as the Laboratory of the Year by R&D in 1967.[10]

The building was subsequently expanded in 1966 and 1982 to its final size of two million square feet of office and laboratory space.[11] Despite these expansions, the original curtain wall design remained intact, as did the unique layout of the site, which included a large elliptical master plan and country-road like approach. Over its active life-span, the facility and its layout was studied in universities as a model of modernist architecture.[12] Internally, the building is divided into four pavilions of labs and offices, each around an atrium. The internal pavilions are linked via sky-bridges and perimeter walkway.[6]

Also of note is the water tower on the complex, which was designed to look like the then-new transistor and is still in usable condition more than 40 years after its construction.[13]

Post Alcatel-Lucent[edit]

In 2006, Alcatel-Lucent contracted to sell the facility to Preferred Real Estate Investments in the process of restructuring the company's research efforts.[4] Despite initial plans to maintain the original buildings and keep the complex as a corporate office park, economic developments later resulted in Preferred seeking to re-zone as residential property.[11][14][15][16] As a result, the complex was added to The Cultural Landscape Foundation's list of 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in New Jersey in May 2007.[1] Additionally action led to the creation of a citizen's group, Preserving Holmdel, by former Bell employees, to lobby for keeping the complex as it was when in use as a laboratory.[17] Working with the community, ideas for changes such as a university center or recreational complex, in portions of the former facility are under consideration.[18]

The Preferred transaction did not close and on May 17, 2012 Holmdel Township declared the site as an "Area in Need of Redevelopment" [19] and adopted a Redevelopment Plan for the property that included various adaptive reuses of the main building and the construction of up to 40 single family homes and 185 age-restricted townhouses outside the main ring road surrounding the building.[20] The Redevelopment Plan is available on the Township's website.[19] The complex is currently under contract to Somerset Development LLC.[21] Somerset has provided concept plans for the redevelopment of the complex in accordance with the Redevelopment Plan and is in discussions with Township officials concerning the details of those plans.[22] Somerset's Redevelopment Concepts are available online [22] and on the Township's website.[19]

In Sep 2013, it was announced that the property was purchased by Somerset Development Corp for $27 million. The redevelopment project will include a health and wellness center, skilled nursing facility and assisted living center, a hotel, restaurants and shopping, spa, office spaces and a 20,000-square-foot public library. Recreation space and luxury homes are planned for the surrounding land.[23]



  1. ^ a b c Emrich, Ron (August 2008). "Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, New Jersey". The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  2. ^ "Big Research Unit Started". NYT. 1959-08-27. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  3. ^ a b Ganapati, Priya (2008-08-28). "Once Mighty Bell Labs Leaves Behind Transistor, Laser, 6 Nobels". Wired. CondéNet. Archived from the original on 24 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  4. ^ a b c Martin, Antoinette (2006-06-14). "Pastoral Site of Historic Inventions Faces the End". NYT. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  5. ^ a b "EERO SAARINEN, 51, ARCHITECT, IS DEAD; Versatile Designer Created Terminal for T.W.A. Here and Embassies for U.S. DISCIPLE OF HIS FATHER Received Many Awards-Worked With Mielziner on Lincoln Center Theater". NYT. 1961-09-02. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  6. ^ a b c d Dunlap, David (2008-03-02). "The Office as Architectural Touchstone". NYT. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  7. ^ Rensberger, Boyce (1972-02-20). "Where Science Grows Miracles". NYT. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  8. ^ Karl Jansky Radio Astronomy Monument
  9. ^ "Detective Work Leads to Monument Honoring the Father of Radio Astronomy". Bell Labs. June 3, 1998. 
  10. ^ Higginbotham, Julie (1998-05-01). "Bell Laboratories Holmdel Complex. (1967 Laboratory of the Year)". R&D. HighBeam Research. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  11. ^ a b Thompson, Sametta (2008-09-15). "Bell Labs site's future". Retrieved 2008-09-27. [dead link]
  12. ^ Shearn, Tim (2008-08-03). "Abandoned Bell Labs could make history again". The Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  13. ^ "World's Largest Transistor". April 2008. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  14. ^ Caiazza, Tom (2006-09-06). "Bell Labs portion will be preserved in Holmdel". The Independent. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  15. ^ "Former Bells Labs Site". Preferred Unlimited. 2007. Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. [dead link]
  16. ^ Block, Ryan (2006-09-01). "Holmdel Bell Labs facility update: it stays!". Engadget. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  17. ^ Beaumont, Leland (2007). "Preserving Holmdel: the future of the Bell Labs facility in Holmdel". PreservingHolmdel. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  18. ^ Martin, Antoinette (2008-05-04). "Ideas for Bell Labs’ Future". NYT. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  19. ^ a b c "HOLMDEL TOWNSHIP :: WELCOME". 
  20. ^ "Alcatel-Lucent Redevelopment Plan OK'd By Holmdel Township Committee". Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  21. ^ "Somerset Development Signs Contract for Alcatel-Lucent Property". Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  22. ^ a b "Holmdel Committee Sends Lucent Plans Back to Developer". Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  23. ^ "Bell Labs site's new owner outlines plans for next 'experiment' in Holmdel". Retrieved 2014-04-04.