arts-culture

Bell Works Tubes Project Uses Functional Art To Reimagine A Futuristic Public Space

It was a long-anticipated installation in the Bell Works community: The tubular sofas known as the Bell Works Tubes in our atrium.

The completion of the furniture marked the end of a two-year project to create a collective space that is simultaneously artistic and functional, dramatic and comfortable, historic and modern. Whether you’re entering the atrium for the first time or simply passing by on your way to work, the Tubes set the stage for the creative and collaborative environment that makes Bell Works so unique.

With its sharp lines, bold patterns, and bright pops of color, the work may appear to be something straight out of a modern art museum; yet its open layout and unexpected design create a fun and inviting atmosphere that welcomes regulars and newcomers alike. The custom-designed atrium furniture project is the brainchild of a talented team of creatives: world-renowned furniture designer Ron Arad, and the team behind the Italian artisan furniture company Moroso and the creative team of Bell Works - Master Architect Alexander Gorlin, Creative Director and founder of NPZ Style + Décor Paola Zamudio, and Ralph Zucker, President of Somerset Development and the visionary behind the building’s adaptive reuse.

“It became immediately clear (after meeting Zamudio and Arad) that we have a mutual understanding of design and quality,” said Moroso’s Jens Rodieck. “Throughout the project, intensive discussions, meetings, and site visits helped us design a work that contributes profoundly to an iconic building.”

“This was a collaborative effort,” Zamudio said, “but the furniture designer is Ron Arad and it was his vision for the round tubes as a contrast to the squares within the space. He insisted on creating his own custom design after he visited. I love his aesthetic, everything he makes is sculptural art.”

Ron Arad (second from left) discusses design concepts with Master Architect Alexander Gorlin and representatives of the Moroso team at Bell Works.

Zamudio turned to art history as the starting point for the project, selecting a 1926 work by textile artist Anni Albers as her inspiration behind the furniture design. She thought the colors and the story would be a perfect complement to the existing atrium tile work, which had been designed by Gorlin after the work of Anni’s husband, Josef Albers. It was Gorlin’s architectural perspective that helped Zamudio create the layout. “I selected Anni Albers’s work because I wanted to connect the history of their artwork as pioneers of twentieth-century modernism, as well as their relationship to one another.” Zamudio was also drawn to the yellow and red pops of color in Anni Albers’ work that would brighten and enliven the space.

 Photo by Marcus deSilva

Zamudio’s next step was to find a furniture concept that would complement the floor while also contributing to the innovative design of the atrium. Arad was so captivated by pictures of the building that he visited Bell Works to see the stunning architectural feat for himself. He was then inspired to create his custom-designed tubular sofas, which made their debut at Milan’s Salone del Mobile Milano and went on to be featured in the New York Times. The artisans at Moroso provided the functional component to Arad’s design and manufactured his work for commercial use.

Despite attracting design attention from around the world, the space is so much more than just an artistic display—it also serves as a common area for the building that cultivates a strong sense of community and sets the tone for the creative and innovative environment of Bell Works. “Paola and Ralph’s vision for an interactive place to work, relax, and meet gave way to a design which is simultaneously functional, beautiful, and fun,” Rodieck said. The openness of the space—and lack of corners and walls to hide behind—creates an accessible setting that encourages people to interact with one another. The unique design of the atrium and the Tubes is something you couldn’t find anywhere else, and this originality inspires the surrounding community to think boldly and imaginatively.

The creative team behind the Tubes attributes much of the successful creation of the space to Ralph Zucker and his openness to new ideas. He encouraged the group to try new methods and experiment stylistically throughout the project. “Ralph believes in the importance of great design and encouraged me to take artistic risks,” explained Zamudio, “A lot of the time, developers want something safe; Ralph wants the future.”

Zamudio takes pride in the legacy of design that the Tubes will leave at Bell Works, and she especially enjoys seeing the community gather in the atrium around the new furniture installation. “Now you can see people sitting at the Tubes and talking to each other. This is why people come to Bell Works—it’s not just the building, it’s because they want to feel connected, they want to meet the people here. That connection is what we’re nurturing in each of the areas we create.”

See how Bell Works tenant JGS Insurance takes a break on the Tubes. Click to watch.

 

Bell Works Through a Photographer's Eyes

Bell Works is not only iconic for some of the most monumental technological innovations of the 20th century, but it has also become a hot spot for photographers (those of us who love snapping pics on our phones). Designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen in 1962 as a home for over 6,000 Bell Labs employees, the building features an open-atrium scheme and one-of-a-kind pedestrian street. During the day of Bell Labs, cameras weren’t allowed in the building, but today, its mid century lines, angles and shadows make it a unique destination for people who are inspired by the building and bring their own meaning and perspective to their photos.

In fact, artists and creatives far and wide have become visually inspired by the building for their projects. In August of 2016, artist Sarah Meyohas brought a team to Bell Works to perform an experiment right here in our atrium on our patterned floor created by Josef Albers. For Meyohas, the space came before the idea. After visiting Bell Works in the spring, she was immediately moved to create, but her iconic muse did not immediately inspire her to action. Then she had a dream. A dream about a cloud of rose petals. During her three day ‘Cloud of Petals’ performance/data-collecting mission, sixteen men chose rose petals they deemed most beautiful, which later got pressed to create a physical subset. That cloud of petals became the multi-layered conceptual performance art piece named Roses at Bell, consisting of 10,000 roses, photographs of the petals and a narrative documentary-style 16 mm film.

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Photo by Bell Works

Saarinen’s design also attracted contemporary artist and director Daniel Arsham who chose the building to shoot several scenes for the film Future Relic ‘03” starring James Franco and Juliette Lewis. Arsham, a fan of the architects work, deemed the 473-acre site the “perfect location.” It’s also the kind of space that drew country singer Tim McGraw and his crew to feature Bell and its sprawling grass fields as backdrop for the cover of the singer’s 14th album, Damn Country Music.

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Photo by The Garibaldi Group

In October 2017, the metroburb was awarded the The Commercial Design Award of Excellence  by Docomomo US for emphasizing the importance of partnerships between owners, architects and the community coming together to save and reinvigorate architecture that at one point faced demolition. Then Interior Design Magazine recognized our space as a Power Grid 100 Best Commercial, Mix-use, non-profit ( and also recognized our Creative Director Paola Zamudio as a top 10 Best Designer Up and Comer, and our Architect Alexander Gorlin as a Power Grid 100 Best Architect.)

The quality of the natural light here and the endless angles to shoot attract creatives from all around the globe, including local photography groups. In August 2015, Jersey Collective, a collaborative Instagram project created to showcase the beauty of New Jersey and the talent of the photographers who live here, hosted a meetup and guided tour for those interested in learning more about the building. Guests were brought to the most interesting places in Bell Works to photograph to hone in on their skills and explore its most photogenic areas.

Slide through to see images of amateur and professional photographers who have captured their own personal perspective on Bell Works.

Are you ready to capture your own image of Bell Works?

Bell Works welcomes photographers and members of the public to visit our building during business hours to capture images for their own personal use.

To learn more, download our photography guidelines.

 Photography at Bell Works

A Dream, A Cloud of Rose Petals: Vision of Artist Sarah Meyohas Comes to Life at Bell Works

 

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”

― Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden

For artist Sarah Meyohas, the space came before the idea. After visiting Bell Works in the spring, she was immediately moved to create, but her iconic muse did not immediately inspire her to action. Then she had a dream. A dream about a cloud of rose petals.

“I started thinking about the history of Bell Labs ushering in the information era, where we find ourselves today,” said Sarah. “I thought about the cloud of petals and the process of making it.”

That cloud of petals became the multi-layered conceptual performance art piece named Roses at Bell, consisting of 10,000 roses, photographs of the petals, and a narrative documentary-style 16 mm film.

On August 24, 16 men took their places at individual work stations strategically placed in a pattern on the color theorist Josef Albers-inspired black, gray and white tiled atrium, each tasked with dissecting roses of different colors and taking photos of each petal. Each man chose the most beautiful petal from each rose to save for pressing. Those subjectively chosen petals, along with the photos of each, were turned into pixels.

Sarah, who attended Yale University, alma mater of both Albers and Eero Saarinen, the famous architect behind the iconic 2-million-square foot mid-century Bell Labs building in Holmdel, said the number of photos taken is too many to count, but believes it to be in the six figure range.

Roses is reminiscent of the technology advancements attributed to the scientists who worked at Bell Labs in its heyday, but inspired by the transitional state the building is in today, and its adaptive reuse into a live, work, play space.

“It’s changing its character without losing its past,” said Sarah. “I wanted to locate this performance within this transition, in this in between.”

The mechanical process of registering each petal is nostalgic of the days when archival work was done by hand, primarily by women, to document and record history, science and technology. Sarah purposely flipped that gender role ideation on its head by choosing men to complete the meticulous work of deconstructing each rose by hand.

“I wanted to force men to do delicate work,” said Sarah. “This is similar to the Google scanning project, which is full of heartfelt accidents since every page is scanned by a human. People often see fingerprints on the scans, a reminder that the physical labor was done by a living person.”

These seemingly tiny and mundane archival tasks of the past were used to empower huge recognition systems, paving the way for the information age.

“Archives, throughout history, affirm power,” said Sarah. “What narrative, what type of info we pick and why we record it. That hasn’t changed, technology just makes it different.”

Sarah’s piece is archival yet current, black and white but colorful, mechanical yet digital, fleeting but timeless. This mirroring is an ever-common theme in Sarah’s work. The rose petals have since dried and withered, but the photos of the velvet beauties will exist forever. It’s about what is lost and what is gained from losing.

“We’ve created such an archive of information, but it’s sort of this manic situation and sometimes makes no sense, but it’s so romantic at the same time,” said Sarah.

A film documenting the project was shot on 16mm film, reflecting the end of the mechanical era and a new resurgence of the information era. But the choice to shoot with an obsolete technology is a timeless artifact of the process and outcome of the exhibit.

“It’s much more material than digital,” said Sarah, who found it difficult even getting 16mm film. “With the photos it was about volume. With the film we only shot when we really had what we wanted.”

Sarah, who had a team of more than 40 people working with her, is now tasked with sifting through the photos and finding a link. A link between shape perhaps, or color.

“We have our desires encoded in our choices,” said Sarah. “We were very much like worker bees in this project. In order to survive, roses need to attract the bees, so they became the most beautiful. That’s why roses are associated with love. Beauty calls copies of itself into existence. When something is beautiful, you want to draw it or photograph it.”

Sarah plans to use the pressed rose petals as wall art to premier at an upcoming exhibit, and would like to use the film, meant to be a sort of art reality television, as documentation of the event. And the photos? To be decided by Sarah later.

“I’m not for or against anything that comes out of this project,” said Sarah. “I wanted people, and myself, to be confronted and feel different things. So many things went into this project and so many things can come out.”

Architecture, design and art. At Bell Works, they are one.

Roses at Bell isn’t the only artistic thing to happen in the Bell Works building. The space has attracted director Daniel Arsham who chose the building to shoot several scenes for the film Future Relic ‘03” starring James Franco and Juliette Lewis. Arsham, a fan of Saarinen’s work, deemed the 473-acre site the “perfect location.” It’s also the kind of space that drew country singer Tim McGraw and his crew to feature Bell and its sprawling grass fields as backdrop for the cover of the singer’s 14th album, Damn Country Music.

And Roses certainly won’t be the last expression of art that happens in this historic backdrop.

Interested in using Bell Works as a space for artistic work? Email events@bell.works or call 732-226-8818.

Event: ROSES AT BELL by Artist Sarah Meyohas

On August 24th, artist Sarah Meyohas will place ten thousand roses of different colors and varieties in Bell Works. Every petal will be picked and photographed by sixteen temporary workers at individual stations arranged in the atrium on a floor pattern by Josef Albers, producing a digital data set. The workers will set aside the petals they consider most beautiful. Those will be taken to a private room, where another person will also select petals for their beauty, and press them to create a physical subset. Once the process of photographing is completed, the digital petals will be analyzed — the color and vibrance, shape and contour, pattern of the pixels — to cluster images and find links. The 200,000+ images will be used to create unique new digital petals by interpolation, or perhaps machine learning can reveal conclusions about beauty. In conjunction to the 10,000 Roses installation, a semi-narrative film will be shot on 16mm in the space, commenting on the end of the mechanical era and a new resurgence of the information era.

On Saturday, August 27th at 3 PM, Sarah Meyohas will give a brief artist talk.

When Fashion Meets Architecture

Sleek lines. Sharp angles. Geometric patterns. Precise craftsmanship. You’ll find them in fashion. You’ll find them in architecture. And you’ll find them both at Bell Works.

Fashion is ephemeral, changing with the whims of the season and its tastemakers. Architecture is more permanent, its style changing with the decades. Both rooted in tradition and spurred by innovation. Both grounded in the past and inspired by the future. Architecture inspires fashion. Fashion inspires architecture.

Where fashion and architecture collide, the effect of their designs is amplified, and it’s happening in the woods of Holmdel, NJ where a dormant icon of architecture, design and technology is waking up and welcoming creatives to come and be inspired.

The former home of Bell Labs, Bell Works is the reimagined redevelopment of the Eero Saarinen-designed space, taking shape as a work play space and a center for creativity. Even as it’s under construction, the site has played host to filmmakers, artists, musicians, and most recently, a fashion publishing house.

When Elle Mexico was scouting locations for its editorial shoot, it landed on Bell Works for its 2 million square feet of shootable space where they could set their stage and take advantage of the soaring six floor atriums. Each wing of the airplane hangar-sized building is flooded with light from glass windows and its glass paneled roof.

Photographer Santiago Ruisenor captures Bell’s personality, the building as much a character in the shoot as the models and the clothing themselves. It stands strong and deep against classic silhouettes, geometric prints and architecture-inspired grays from fashion designer Sportmax, juxtaposed with the stunning setting, full of granite-gray ledges, gorgeous glass and shimmering glimpses of sunlight.

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“The Elle Mexico shoot was a great fit,” said Alexandra Harrison, Brand Manager at Somerset Development, the real estate firm involved in the renovation of Bell Works. “The space is evocative and versatile based on it's sheer size and its large open spaces. For someone with a camera and a creative eye, the building offers so much in the way of artistic opportunity.”

It’s the kind of space that attracted director Daniel Arsham to chose the building to shoot several scenes of his Tribeca Film Festival-premiered film, “Future Relic ‘03.” Arsham, a fan of Saarinen’s work, deemed the 473-acre site the “perfect location.”

It’s also the kind of space that drew country singer Tim McGraw and his crew to use the Bell Works building and its sprawling grass fields as the backdrop for the cover of the singer’s 14th album, Damn Country Music.

The Bell Works building itself is experiencing a rebirth reconnecting to it’s past as a design icon and business center.

The interplay of fashion and architecture that Bell offers mimics the effect of more well-known architectural landmarks on designers. A triangle pattern may mirror the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Shining textiles might reflect the glimmering glass of the Louvre.  A slate gray, perfectly-tailored blazer can echo the great New York City marble behemoths, like the Met, the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall. A curved hem line can reflect the parabola of the St. Louis Arch, another Eero Saarinen work of art.

At Bell, Elle Mexico set it’s featured fashions against the strong geometric patterns of the monochrome color block granite and the glittering exterior glass panels, patterns popping against Saarinen’s monochromatic palette.

“High fashion and architecture are, in some ways, the use of different mediums to communicate ideas of social and cultural identity,” said Alexandra. “They are both driven by functionality, but also personality and style.”

Fashion as cultural identity is part of the focus of Bell Works as it creates a center for culture, technology and business within suburban New Jersey.

“We’re really focusing on our efforts on tapping into the culture around work, and that means bringing together several different industries, such as tech, finance, fashion and science into one space,” said Alexandra. “Eero Saarinen’s goal with the building was to inspire. By bringing these different but connected industries together, we’re doing just that.”

Architecture is dependent on quality materials and purposeful design. The very best marble and granite. Flawless glass that allows natural light to stream. Interiors that are functional, but create a pleasing aesthetic. The Bell Works space is unlike modern office buildings, in that its neofuturistic aesthetic gives a look and feel that’s modern and enduring, functional and aspirational, like a timeless couture piece. That quality is what attracts the fashion world to Bell. More than a building, the historic space enhances editorial shoots, it makes a hauntingly beautiful backdrop for fashions.

“We’ve had so many different designers, seasons and looks come to Bell Works to shoot, and each one has come out so incredibly unique,” said Alexandra.

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Bell Works has created an urban experience in suburbia. The multi-use community is designed for commercial use, including tenants like fashion brands and light retail. The space produces inspiration, innovation, and creation at every turn. For information about booking the space for photography or events, contact Alexandra Harrison.