A Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

March 1, 2012

To the Editor:

Jon Gertner’s recent story (True Innovation, Sunday, February 26, 2012) about his soon to be published book, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, was welcomed by those of us who have been advocating for the retention and reuse of the Eero Saarinen designed Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ. Mr. Gertner’s story highlights the accomplishments of Bell Labs’ far-reaching technological prowess while it establishes the context of the Holmdel facility as an important architectural model.

The innovations were rooted in open-minded thinking and the sharing of knowledge, all supported by architecture that itself was flexible, new and original. The Holmdel facility featured aspects now commonplace, including the first uses of mirrored curtainwall, vast open floor plans and an overall rational plan that extended out to include the park-like setting of 472 acres designed by Sasaki Walker and Associates. Bell Labs is a product of our unique American character and the expression of how exceptional architecture fosters and embodies technological ingenuity.

Bell Labs Holmdel, completed in 1962, has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and the was subject of a recent award winning Charrette sponsored by AIA-New Jersey, Docomomo-NY/TriState, and Preservation NJ. Publication of this book and recent news that a prospective buyer has emerged for the two million square foot office and research facility present an excellent time to renew our call to Holmdel Township and to Alcatel-Lucent to work together to find a way that will assure the site’s future.

Michael Calafati

Michael Calafati, AIA
Chair, Historic Resources Committee, AIA-New Jersey
March 1, 2012

Michael Calafati is principal of Michael Calafati Architect, LLC, Cape May, NJ and co-editor of the Bell Labs Charrette: A Sustainable Future.

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