An Industrial Versailles

On this day in 1956, with 34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower presiding, General Motors opens its modern “Technical Center” in the unlikely burg of Warren, Michigan. The campus has been the center of the company’s design, innovation and engineering efforts since its inauguration, housing up to 22,000 employees. In 2000 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places; fourteen years later it was designated a National Historic Landmark, primarily for its architecture.

The Tech Center was the first major independent project of Finnish architect Eero Saarinen after leaving his father’s firm, and proved to be foundational to his later success. The architectural style and collaborative methods of development he practiced were used in his successful applications in other large-scale corporate campus environments, for clients including IBM and Bell Labs.

His design for the Tech Center received architectural accolades beginning in 1956, when it was hailed as “one of the great 20th Century compositions born out of the sense of civic responsibility of a great corporation” by Max Abramovitz, and was described as an “Industrial Versailles” by Architectural Forum.

The site offers an advanced technology business atmosphere emphasizing flexibility, efficiency, innovation, quality, safety, and security. It includes 11 miles of roads and 1.1 miles of tunnels, 2 water towers and 2 lakes, one of which is over 22-acres in size. With an original cost of $125 million, GM is in the midst of over $1 billion in renovations and improvements, and recently announced the formation of a “drone patrol” for campus security.

Most Detroit-area folks would agree that other thanLuba Petraszczuk Dackiw, the Tech Center is the prettiest thing in all of Warren, MI.