Bells Labs, Architecturally Significant Modernist Building in Holmdel, N.J.
HOLMDEL, N.J. (July 17, 2009) — Though most had seen photos of the Bell Labs building designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen — or even studied it in school — few of the architects who recently toured the shuttered building in Holmdel were prepared for the awe-inspiring scale and drama of the building, which is nearly a quarter mile long and once housed 7,500 employees, a small city unto itself.
The group of about 60 architects attended a tour sponsored by the Emerging Professionals program of the Newark and Suburban section of the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ). The tour included presentations by Saarinen expert Peter C. Papademetriou, and Ralph Zucker, president of Lakewood, N.J.-based Somerset Development, the contract purchaser for the building.
“It’s immense compared to what I thought it would be,” said self-confessed Saarinen fan Elizabeth Drake, AIA, principal of Elizabeth Drake Architect in Cedar Knolls, N.J.
The modernist landmark, which was completed in 1962 and expanded in 1966 and 1982, is considered the state’s most important example of post-World War II modernist architecture. It was closed in July 2006 and listed for sale by owner Alcatel-Lucent. The site was named to Preservation New Jersey’s list of the “10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in New Jersey” that same year.