Westbeth Artists’ Housing was conceived in the 1960’s as a partial solution to the acute need to provide affordable housing and studios for artists and their families. In so doing, it became one of the first examples of adaptive reuse of industrial buildings for artistic and residential use in the United States.
Located in NYC in Manhattan’s Far West Village, it is a complex of 13 buildings which were formally the site of Bell Laboratories (1868-1966), one of the world’s most important research centers. It was here that the first talking movie, the condenser microphone, the first TV broadcast, and the first binary computer were demonstrated.
With innovative funding spearheaded by Joan Davidson of the J. M. Kaplan Foundation, and Roger Stevens of the National Endowment for the Arts, it became an ambitious renovation project designed to create 384 live-work spaces for artists of all disciplines and their families under the direction of developer Dixon Bain. Richard Meier was the renovation architect. Westbeth opened in 1970.
Recently Westbeth was calendared for consideration as a landmark under NYC Landmark laws, and it has been nominated to the State Registrar of Historic Places and to the National Registrar of Historic Places.
Westbeth is owned by the not-for-profit Westbeth Housing Development Fund Corporation, administered by the Westbeth Board of Directors. Cultural events are sponsored by the Westbeth Artists Residents Council, a tenant-elected non for profit organization. For further info see Council.
In addition to its residential component, Westbeth also contains large and small commercial spaces, performance and rehearsal spaces and artists studios both individual and communal, such as the Westbeth Sculptors’ Studio and the Westbeth Graphics Studio.
Westbeth is also home to a number of major cultural organizations including the New School for Drama, the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, the Brecht Forum, and Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the first LGBT synagogue in New York.
Bell Lab photos reprinted with permission of Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc