Bell Labs Holmdel Complex

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Bell Works
Bell Labs Holmdel.jpg
Aerial view
Former names Bell Labs , Alcatel Lucent
General information
Architectural style Mid-Century Modern
Location Holmdel Township, New Jersey, U.S.
Address 101 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel, New Jersey[1]
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]
Grounds 472.69 acres (1.9129 km2)[5]
Design and construction
Architect Eero Saarinen[6]
Other designers Sasaki, Walker & Associates[7]
Awards and prizes 1967 Laboratory of the year

The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex, in Holmdel Township, New Jersey, United States, functioned for forty-four years as a research and development facility, initially for the Bell System.[3] The centerpiece of the 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][8] the laser cooling work of Steven Chu. The building has undergone renovations into a multi-purpose living and working space, dubbed Bell Works by its redevelopers, and as of 2016, the former Bell Labs complex has been experiencing a renaissance as a business incubator for high-tech startup companies.[9]


Before the present building, the site was used by Bell Telephone Laboratories for research. Karl Guthe Jansky invented radio astronomy there, and 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.[10][11]

In 1957, the Bell Telephone Company began to plan a research laboratory in Holmdel Township in Central New Jersey.[7] Constructed between 1959 and 1962, this complex was one of the final projects of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen before his death in 1961.[6] 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.[7] 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.[12]

The building was expanded in 1966 and 1982 to its final size of two million square feet of office and laboratory space.[13] 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 were studied in universities as models of modernist architecture.[14] Internally, the building is divided into four pavilions of labs and offices, each separated from the others by an cross-shaped atrium. The internal pavilions are linked via sky-bridges and perimeter walkway.[7]

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.[15]

Post Alcatel-Lucent - Bell Works[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.[13][16][17][18] 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.[19] Working with the community, ideas for changes such as a university center or recreational complex, in portions of the former facility are under consideration.[20]

The Preferred transaction did not close and on May 17, 2012 Holmdel Township declared the site as an "Area in Need of Redevelopment" [21] 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.[22] The Redevelopment Plan is available on the Township's website.[21] The complex is currently under contract to Somerset Development LLC.[23] 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.[24] Somerset's Redevelopment Concepts are available online [24] and on the Township's website.[21]

In Sep 2013, it was announced that the property was purchased by Somerset Development Corp for $27 million for a redevelopment project planned to 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. Recreational space and luxury homes were planned for the surrounding land. Toll Brothers was slated to be the residential developer the project. Several office tenants have moved into the Bell Works building, and there is a cafe now open in the main lobby.[25]



  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 January 25, 2016. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  5. ^ BellWorks_Redevelopment Plan - link triggers PDF download
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ a b c d Dunlap, David (2008-03-02). "The Office as Architectural Touchstone". NYT. Archived from the original on September 22, 2015. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  8. ^ Rensberger, Boyce (1972-02-20). "Where Science Grows Miracles". NYT. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  9. ^ Shawn Marsh (August 7, 2016). "Former N.J. Bell Labs site seeks to inspire new inventors". North Jersey Media Group. Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  10. ^ Karl Jansky Radio Astronomy Monument
  11. ^ "Detective Work Leads to Monument Honoring the Father of Radio Astronomy". Bell Labs. June 3, 1998. 
  12. ^ Higginbotham, Julie (1998-05-01). "Bell Laboratories Holmdel Complex. (1967 Laboratory of the Year)". R&D. HighBeam Research. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  13. ^ a b Thompson, Sametta (2008-09-15). "Bell Labs site's future". Retrieved 2008-09-27. [dead link]
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ "World's Largest Transistor". April 2008. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ "Former Bells Labs Site". Preferred Unlimited. 2007. Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Beaumont, Leland (2007). "Preserving Holmdel: the future of the Bell Labs facility in Holmdel". PreservingHolmdel. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  20. ^ Martin, Antoinette (2008-05-04). "Ideas for Bell Labs' Future". NYT. Archived from the original on August 9, 2012. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  21. ^ a b c "HOLMDEL TOWNSHIP :: WELCOME". 
  22. ^ "Alcatel-Lucent Redevelopment Plan OK'd By Holmdel Township Committee". Retrieved 2013-02-11. [permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "Somerset Development Signs Contract for Alcatel-Lucent Property". Archived from the original on 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  24. ^ a b "Holmdel Committee Sends Lucent Plans Back to Developer". Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  25. ^ Archived from the original on 2015-09-04. Retrieved 2015-09-01.  Missing or empty |title= (help)