Bell Labs Holmdel Complex is a research and development facility in New Jersey. It was closed and abandoned for ten years in 2007 and opened again after being renovated in 2018.
Eero Saarinen designed the Bell Labs New Jersey in the late 1950s and all construction works were completed in 1960s. Saarinen died a year before Holmdel was completed and six years before the six story complex would be named Laboratory of the Year by R&D Magazine. We prepared stunning photos of Bell Labs Holmdel taken when building was abandoned and after its renovation.
From 1962 until the early 2000s, the Bell Labs complex in New Jersey served as the center of campus for Bell Laboratories, a research and development division of AT&T. The building was expanded in 1966 and 1982 to its final size of two million square feet of office and laboratory space. 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. Internally, the building is divided into four pavilions of labs and offices, each separated from the others by a cross-shaped atrium. The internal pavilions are linked via sky-bridges and perimeter walkway.
Bell Labs New Jersey served as the home to more than 6,000 engineers and researchers. One of these researchers, Steven Chu, went on to receive the 1997 Nobel Prize for his work at Holmdel using laser light to trap and cool atoms. Two others, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, received their Nobel Prizes for the Holmdel Horn Antenna, credited with proving the Big Bang theory, and Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes invented the laser at Bell Labs in 1958.
In 2006, Alcatel-Lucent contracted to sell the facility to Preferred Real Estate Investments in the process of restructuring the company’s research efforts. 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. 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.
In September 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. In November 2016, Nokia completed its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent.
Architect Alexander Gorlin designed the 2018-2019 renovation which includes opening up the laboratory spaces to the atrium light by replacing Saarinen’s metal panels with glass. He also redesigned the two mammoth 1,000 x 100 ft atria floors. Skylights were replaced with transparent photovoltaic panels, and a hotel is planned for the roof.
As of 2022 the complex has been renovated and reopened as Bell Works, and the building is home to dozens of businesses and even a farmer’s market. Let’s take a look at Bell Labs New Jersey while it was abandoned and after its renovation.