AIA NJ Responds to the New York Times

August 6, 2017

On Sunday, July 8th, AIA NJ Historical Preservation Committee Chair, Michael Calafati, AIA, LEED AP, read NYT writer Allison Arieff’s opinion piece on Corporate Campuses.  It included a comparison between Apple’s campus by Foster in Cupertino, CA and the Eero Saarinen-designed Bell Labs campus in Holmdel, NJ.

Given AIA-NJ’s role in the preservation and reuse of Bell Labs, a letter was sent to the Times to highlight AIA-NJ’s role and to draw additional contrast.
We share the letter here…
Dear NY Times,
The Sunday Review on July 8, 2017 made reference to Bells Labs in Holmdel, NJ designed by Eero Saarinen just prior to his death in 1960 (One Thing Silicon Valley Can’t Seem to Fix). While Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, CA has an eye-opening form and an enviable pedigree in its association with Norman Foster, a comparison to Bell Labs, or many other ex-urban corporate facilities of the mid 20th century, merits a much deeper look.  Bell Labs was the product of more naïve times when the US was unchallenged in the realm of technology and innovation and the pitfalls of rapid suburban development were not widely recognized.  In their move to consolidate much of the R&D capacity in one location, Bell (like many other large corporations) turned to Saarinen for a new building type.  In so doing, Saarinen pioneered features we take for granted today with a distinct Bell twist – such as open plans with space for offices and laboratories, the first large scale use of a mirrored glass façade to reflect the surrounding environment (love it or hate it – it took root with this building) and an emphasis on shared and open circulation spaces that fostered professional collaboration.  Professional collaborators within its walls included Nobel laureates and resulted in advances that made touch tone dialing, fax transmissions and the cellular telephones possible. 
Recognizing Bell Labs’ iconic importance and wanting to avoid reuse scenarios that included demolition, AIA-NJ and its regional preservation partners Preservation NJ and Docomomo-NY/TriState lead the battle to awaken the public’s awareness of Bell Lab’s significance to architecture and technology.  Today, thanks to the advance work of architects and preservations, Bell Works is taking shape and its redevelopment to accommodate multiple uses follows the course first charted by the Charrette co-organized by AIA-NJ nine years ago.
Ben Lee, AIA, President 
AIA-New Jersey

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