General motors technical center - national historic landmark nomination


The General Motors Technical Center is a masterpiece of Modernism, planned and designed by Eero Saarinen, one of the most significant 20th-century American architects. In 2012, following a national search, the State of Michigan selected PDP to evaluate the campus carefully, undertake complete research to establish the history of GM Tech's creation and use, document its outstanding national significance and historic integrity, and prepare a National Historic Landmark Nomination for the site.


The idea for creating the GM Tech Center was conceived by Alfred P. Sloan - the noted President, CEO and Chairman of General Motors - and one of his closest collaborators, Charles Kettering, another gifted executive who was head of research at GM. A visionary automotive executive and organizational genius, Sloan believed that the long-term prosperity of GM would be based on careful, deliberate and orderly planning of product lines that the corporation would offer to consumers, all based on collaboration of research, engineering, manufacturing and design. Sloan also understood the value of great design, and recruited Harley J. Earl, the legendary designer, who eventually became responsible for several iconic GM vehicles including the world-famous Corvette.

At Earl's urging, Sloan embraced the notion that the new Technical Center should meet the highest aesthetic standards of the age, and Earl was placed in charge of selecting an architect for the project. The firm of Saarinen & Swanson was selected in 1945 as the lead architects for the project, and a design scheme was approved by GM. The work was placed on hold due to post-World War II shortages and a strike, and was not reactivated until 1948. By then Eliel Saarinen was seriously ill and his son Eero had taken over the firm. Eero subtly reworked the design approach, creating a high-style Modernist vision for this ground-breaking project.

The GM Tech Campus is probably the first corporate campus to bring together the key areas of an automotive corporation responsible for the creation of new products. Saarinen's vision was pioneering, creating a truly modern environment, from the overall planning conception, composition and the architectural expression of the buildings to the iconic interior spaces and finishes, custom furniture, hardware and signs. Sculptures and paintings were provided by modern artists and GM's designers.

The campus was dedicated in 1956 and was recognized, from the point that its first buildings were complete in 1950, as an innovative work of planning and as an architectural masterpiece: a modern campus to allow advanced technology and high-end design to achieve their maximum potential in an inspiring environment. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the GM Tech Center was elevated to National Historic Landmark status in October 2014, recognizing its outstanding significance and protecting its future.


Completed (2012)