Bell Laboratories

BellLabs_feature_BillWetzel.jpg
Holmdel, NJ
United States
Bell Laboratories

Located in a suburban township 35 miles south of Manhattan, this two-million-square-foot glass-clad building designed by Eero Saarinen and Associates was constructed in three phases between 1959 and 1985. Sasaki, Walker and Associates designed a 134-acre portion of what was initially a 472-acre site, the remainder of which was left as open fields and wooded expanse. After languishing for some years, the property was purchased by Somerset Development in 2013 and the building was redeveloped to become Bell Works, a commercial hub featuring shops, offices, a hotel, and other facilities. The outlying, unaltered acreage was sold for development and now contains single-family residences and other housing.

The designed landscape forms a keyhole-shaped parcel outlined by mature-canopy trees and comprising two main parts: an ellipse that surrounds the building itself and a long, tapering lawn defined by entrance and exit roads extending to the north. The ellipse is divided roughly into thirds, with the eastern and western portions almost entirely devoted to vehicular parking. Saarinen’s building bisects the middle third of the ellipse, which contains symmetrically arranged lawns, plantings, and bodies of water: the northern portion contains a pond (190 x 140 yards) and parking area; the southern a lagoon-like body of water outlined by trees, with a central island accessed via a footbridge. A miniature replica of Karl Jansky’s radio telescope is located in the northeastern section of the ellipse, and a water tower near the site’s main entrance mimics the shape of a transistor.