It was a hands-on day at her pop-up flower processing operation

Last Wednesday, temporary workers arrived at Union Square for a 7:30 a.m. departure. The bus they boarded was bound for Bell Labs’ Holmdel Complex in New Jersey. Some snoozed on the hour-ish journey, which traversed the Garden State Park and its dully commercial sites. The path they followed was well-tread by the city-dwelling engineers that once commuted to the Eero Saarinen-designed campus, the site where at least one of Bell Labs’ eight Nobel Prize-winning inventions was developed.

Enumerated in Jon Gertner’s The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, the groundbreaking technologies produced by AT&T’s research and development team fundamentally changed the way we live and work. In fact, upon arrival at the now defunct facility, a water-tower shaped like one of Bell Labs’s most influential accomplishments—the transistor—greeted us.

The men on the bus arrived at 9:00 a.m. dressed in white shirts and black pants. Artist Sarah Meyohas had found them through a mix of personal recommendations, ManPower, and an extras agency.

Saarinen’s enormous mirrored facade showcases the lab’s unusually pastoral setting. The two million square foot modernist building was once approached by a large, uninterrupted field, now there is maze of parking lots that break up the green. The local deer haven’t seemed to notice, however, they were still grazing in between the pavement. Somerset Development, a real estate conglomerate, bought the property in 2013 and is slowly converting it into a residential-meets-commercial enterprise. There are already new tenants in the behemoth, including a virtual reality firm, but the renovation process is far from complete. Many hallways are still dark, with corridors that lead to endless labs, conference rooms and cubicles.

The building serves as an intriguing impetus for Meyohas’ ambitious new project, a first for the artist on this scale.

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