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Bell Laboratories

Modern Landscapes

Bell Laboratories
Holmdel, New Jersey

The Bell Laboratory complex, constructed in 1959 and expanded in 1966 and 1985, is an iconic corporate campus designed at a large scale on a 470-acre site. The landscape design by Sasaki, Walker and Associates, led by Hideo Sasaki, with Stuart Dawson as principal for the second phase, complements the structure designed by Eero Saarinen with additions by Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo.  Within the designed landscape the nearly 2,000,000 square foot building, with offices and high technology laboratories, was an innovative work place for some 6,000 staff.  In March 2006, the current owner announced plans for redevelopment of the site by a private developer that involved demolition of portions of the iconic structure and alterations to the landscape. These proposed changes prompted protests from professionals throughout the world that included members of the National Academy of Scientists, DOCOMOMO, the National Trust, NJ AIA and others. The plan for demolition and subdivision was poorly received by the township as it threatened a substantial ground water recharge function and acreage for the Monmouth County watershed and may have adverse effects on the character of the Holmdel community.

In April 2008 Heritage Landscapes was invited to participate in a design charrette for the “Preservation and Adaptive Use of the Eero Saarinen’s Bell Labs” in Holmdel, NJ. The Charrette was organized by the coalition noted as charette hosts above, to pursue the preservation and rehabilitation for reuse of the landmark complex. The 3-day charrette assembled a design team comprised of architects, landscape architects, planners, mechanical engineers, interior designer, acoustic designer and students. The collaborative effort sought to develop a range of approaches to address and identify re-use options for the site and structure. Professionals were instructed at the beginning of the workshops to think cross-functionally and develop integrated design; identify elements for long-term sustainability; generate new and interesting ideas; and, work in a multi-disciplinary exchange. Heritage Landscapes contributed to the studio and field sessions, providing expertise in working with culturally significant landscapes, defining corporate landscape character zones, determining areas where impacts may be absorbed and clarifying the character-defining features and uniqueness of this important modern work.

Charrette Hosts:
New Jersey Chapter of the AIA, Preservation New Jersey, DOCOMOMO US, DOCOMOMO NY, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Recent Past Preservation Network and The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Bell Laboratories Design Charrette

Project Credits:
Heritage Landscapes, Preservation Landscape Architects & Planners, Invited Participants