Collection by Diana Budds

Rare Archival Photos of the GM Technical Center


Heralded as the “Versailles of Industry” when it opened in 1956, the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, remains symbolic of cutting-edge design.

Designed by architect Eero Saarinen and landscape architect Thomas Church, the 320-acre General Motors Technical Center campus initially featured 25 buildings. The most visually arresting and technically challenging of these is the aluminum-clad Styling dome, an auditorium and exhibition space. Harley Earl, GM’s chief of style at the time, believed that the center’s architecture should reflect the automaker’s emphasis on advanced engineering and design, and persuaded the company’s leadership to be ambitious and bold when commissioning the concept, says Susan Skarsgard, manager of GM Design Archive and Special Collections. More than a half-century later, the center is still GM’s thriving creative hub where designers, engineers, and craftspeople develop prototypes and technologies—and the architecture continues to inspire. “Seeing the giant ‘wall of water’ on the lake for the first time in spring, or the blue skies over the colored brick in the evening—it’s a reminder that good design is important, impactful, and lasting,” Skarsgard says.

The Styling dome on the campus of General Motors’ Technical Center is 188 feet wide and 65 feet tall.
When the Technical Center was built in the 1950s, it symbolized the core ethos of General Motors.
The campus features low-slung buildings oriented around a lake.
"Earl convinced them that the architecture itself should reflect the importance of style and advanced engineering at...
Saarinen designed the interior spaces with flexibility in mind.
As the manager of the GM Design Archive and Special Collections, Skarsgard has been collecting ephemera from the...
The cafeteria in the Research building was outfitted with furniture of Saarinen's design.
This image depicts the Chevrolet design studio.
"Walking past the suspended stairs in our lobby at GM Design, or seeing the giant 'wall of water' on the lake for the...