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Development poses threat to Eero Saarinen's Bell Laboratories

Fears are growing for the future of Eero Saarinen's world-famous and much-photographed Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey.

Completed in 1962, the massive office complex - birthplace of the laser and the mobile phone - could be torn down, at least in part, if a controversial property deal goes through later this summer.

Developer Preferred Real Estate Investments (PREI), which has been in protracted discussions with the current owner of the 191ha site, Lucent Technologies, wants to flatten some of the existing blocks to make way for new office buildings and 350 homes.

The proposed deal has provoked outrage from a spectrum of groups keen to see the 'cathedral-like' campus spared from the bulldozers.

However, PREI is claiming that the current building stock is not suitable for modern-day uses. A spokesman said: 'While it's beautiful from an architectural standpoint, from a pragmatic stand it doesn't hold up.

'The building is, for all intents and purposes, functionally obsolete in today's commercial market.

'The building was... constructed in a manner that would make modernisation extremely costly, if not entirely implausible.'

Even so, the developer has maintained that, in a nod to the past, phase one of Saarinen's original design will be preserved.

The sale is expected to go through in August 2007.

To see images of the Bell Laboratories click here and here .

by Richard Waite

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