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General Motors Technical Center

Coordinates: 42°30′48″N 83°2′16″W / 42.51333°N 83.03778°W / 42.51333; -83.03778
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General Motors Technical Center
Aerial view of the General Motors Technical Center
General Motors Technical Center is located in Michigan
General Motors Technical Center
General Motors Technical Center is located in the United States
General Motors Technical Center
LocationBounded by 12 Mile, Mound and Chicago Rds, and Van Dyke Ave., Warren, Michigan
Coordinates42°30′48″N 83°2′16″W / 42.51333°N 83.03778°W / 42.51333; -83.03778
Area600 acres (240 ha)
ArchitectEero Saarinen; Thomas Dolliver Church
Architectural styleInternational Style
NRHP reference No.00000224[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPMarch 27, 2000
Designated NHLAugust 25, 2014
A wide rectilinear six-story blue-and-white building with the American, Canadian and Mexican flags flying in front, seen from a nearby roadway, under a cloudy sky
The Vehicle Engineering Center (VEC) Tower

The GM Technical Center was inaugurated in 1956 as General Motors's primary design and engineering center, located in Warren, Michigan.

In 2000 the center was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and fourteen years later it was designated a National Historic Landmark, primarily for its architecture.[2]



At the concerted effort of General Motors' Vice President of Styling, Harley Earl,[3] the corporation selected architect Eero Saarinen as the architect for the "Tech Center," with construction beginning in 1949. The original campus was completed in 1955 and ceremonially opened by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 16, 1956. The facility cost the company approximately US$100 million at the time—over US$1 billion in 2023 dollars.

In the following decades, the number of buildings at the Tech Center increased with the massive Vehicle Engineering Center (VEC), several wind tunnels, a battery development area, and most recently a pre-production operations (PPO) building. This growth was spurred by increasing saturation of technology in its vehicles—and by General Motors' continuing centralization of engineering.



The "Tech Center" is a 710-acre campus located in Warren, Michigan and includes 38 buildings designed to accommodate over 21,000 employees. The site is bounded by Van Dyke Avenue on the east, by Mound Road on the west, by Chicago Road on the north, and by 12 Mile Road on the south. The Tech Center is divided by a north-south railroad right-of-way: the western half includes research, design, and advanced engineering activities while the eastern half includes more planning, current engineering, pre-production, and service activities.

The site offers an advanced technology business atmosphere emphasizing flexibility, efficiency, innovation, quality, safety, and security. It includes 11 miles (18 km) of roads and 1.1 miles (1.8 km) of tunnels, 2 water towers as well as 2 lakes one of which is at least 22-acre (89,000 m2). The lakes are used as emergency fire reservoirs in the event of a catastrophic fire. Fire safety has been a priority at GM since the historic industrial fire occurred in 1953 at the GM Hydramatic plant in Livonia, Michigan.

West Area


East Area

  • Cadillac Headquarters
  • CCO Building (formerly Chevrolet Headquarters)
  • Cole Engineering Center (formerly VEC-Vehicle Engineering Center)
  • Estes Engineering Center (formerly AEC-Advanced Engineering Center, which was previously Powertrain Engineering)
  • Pre-production Operations (PPO)
  • Training Center
  • Service Engineering Center
  • After-sales Engineering

Design significance

The General Motors Technical Center building, seen here in 1956.

The Tech Center was the first major independent project of Eero Saarinen after leaving his father's firm, and proved to be foundational to his later success.

Saarinen collaborated with design consultants and artists, including Alexander Girard and Cranbrook designers Harry Bertoia, Maija Grotell, and Florence Knoll. The design integrates not only Saarinen's architecture, but also planning; civil design; landscape architecture (by Thomas Church); interior design and fine arts. Artworks include works by Harry Bertoia, Alexander Calder (the fountain at the north end of the main reflecting pond), Antoine Pevsner (sculpture, The Flight of the Bird, aka Bird in Flight, at the south end of the same reflecting pond, outside the Styling Administration Building)[4] as well as paintings by Charles Sheeler and Jimmy Ernst.[5]

The architectural style and collaborative methods of development Saarinen practiced were used successfully in other large-scale corporate campus projects for clients including Bell Labs, IBM, and the John Deere World Headquarters. His design for the Tech Center received architectural acknowledgements beginning in 1956, when it was described as "one of the great 20th Century compositions born out of the sense of civic responsibility of a great corporation" by Max Abramovitz, and it was described as an "Industrial Versailles" by Architectural Forum. Its architectural importance was cited as the primary reason for the center's 2014 National Historic Landmark designation.[6] The American Institute of Architects honored it in 1986 as the most outstanding architectural project of its era.

See also



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ Mike Litterst (September 30, 2014). "Secretary Jewell, Director Jarvis Announce Nine New National Historic Landmarks Highlighting America's Diverse History and Culture" (Press release). Washington. U.S. Department of the Interior.
  3. ^ Michael H. Hodges (December 11, 2019). "New book celebrates Eero Saarinen's GM Tech Center". The Detroit News. But GM's design guru, Harley Earl, was a risk taker, and "very much wanted the campus to reflect the future orientation of the company," Skarsgard said. "So he just waited till Kettering retired (in 1947), and then pushed hard to go with Eero."
  4. ^ "Workshop of Tomorrow, p. 26". Detroit Free Press. May 16, 1956.
  5. ^ "General Motors Technical Center". Society of Architectural Historians.
  6. ^ "Draft NHL nomination for General Motors Technical Center" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved March 31, 2017.

Further reading