General Motors Design Auditorium Michigan

General Motors Building, MI Interior Architecture, GM American Car Maker

General Motors Design Auditorium Michigan

GM Facility in Warren, USA – design by von Weise Associates

Jun 23, 2018

General Motors Design Auditorium Michigan

Architects: SmithGroupJJR ; Original Architect: Eero Saarinen

Location: Warren, Michigan, USA

General Motors Design Auditorium Michigan

In 1956, the General Motors automotive styling team moved from Detroit to a new design space in Warren, Michigan.

The complex, originally designed by Eero Saarinen, has become a legendary corporate master piece of planning and design. Saarinen, working closely with the automotive styling team placed special attention on the spaces concerned with designing, prototyping and evaluating new automobile styles.

General Motors Design Auditorium Michigan interior
photo courtesy of The Chicago Athenaeum

A large indoor viewing auditorium was constructed to enable the designers the opportunity to view their designs in an open space regardless of weather. This 180’ diameter domed space was indirectly lighted to provide a shadow-less environment for the evaluation of form and finish of the vehicles. It has become an iconic piece that automotive design organizations around the world have prototyped for facilities of their own.

General Motors, seeking to enhance the relevance of this landmark as an evaluation and presentation center for critiquing, presenting and displaying the next generation of automotive product design, initiated the renovation of the Design Auditorium.

General Motors Design Auditorium Michigan dome

The overall design intent was to modernize the facility but to do so in a manner consistent with the original Saarinen detailing. Quality materials of walnut wood paneling, stainless steel and aluminum used in the original design were continued throughout the renovation, while strategies for using today’s technological advances in materials adds to the relevancy of the space. The original tile floor had been replaced over time and was again in poor condition. A new seem-less resin floor was installed.

Implementing the new lighting and AV systems was done with the minimalist possible interventions. The main lighting ring in the center of the dome was replaced with a new ring of fully adjustable, fully programmable, IPad-controlled, white/RGB LED lighting.

General Motors Design Auditorium Warren

The major design challenge was to integrate these new technologies with minimal interruption to this unique space and to modify the original when required in a manner consistent with the original design. The renovation was not intended to preserve a historic structure of past accomplishments, but rather to transform what Saarinen designed into a space of continued corporate benefit.

An existing conference room was transformed into a fully functioning Board Room where management can make decisions with immediate adjacency to the products. Miscellaneous storage areas were converted into a new Green Room and a Conference Room to meet the presentation goals of today’s multiple uses of the space. All interventions, systems and strategies were done in the spirit of Saarinen’s original design intent.

General Motors Design Auditorium Michigan

Inside of the Dome Auditorium a new control counter was installed. True to how Saarinen designed reception desks and stairs throughout this automotive campus, the new control counter is a clean flowing gesture that meets programmatic needs. The desk’s sectional shape derived from a 1940’s Cadillac hood ornament.

Saarinen’s team employed creative moves using the best technology available in 1950 to construct and light the dome. Today the technologies of materials, lighting and audio/visual have progressed dramatically and the revised Dome Auditorium, with these interventions, is poised for this automotive company to re-establish the relevance of this significant space as an evaluation, presentation and entertainment center for the next generation of automotive product design.

General Motors Design Auditorium Warren – Building Information

Architects: SmithGroupJJR
Original Architect: Eero Saarinen (1956)
Client: General Motors Company
General Contractor: Roncelli, Inc.

General Motors Design Auditorium Warren Building images / information from The Chicago Athenaeum, 150618

General Motors Design Auditorium in Warren is one of over 100 shortlisted buildings to win at the prestigious 2018 American Architecture Awards:

American Architecture Awards 2018


To see all listed projects on a single map please follow this link.




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Website: General Motors Design Auditorium – AIA