2017 AIA Awards – Interior Architecture

Firm: SmithGroupJJR

Owner: General Motors Company, LLC

Location: Warren, Michigan

A large indoor viewing auditorium, part of Eero Saarinen’s legendary complex for the automotive giant, has allowed the GM Styling team to view its designs in an open space regardless of weather since 1956. The 180-foot-diameter domed space provides indirect lighting and a shadowless environment for evaluating the form and finish of the company’s vehicles.

To enhance the relevance of this landmark—which has endured for years as the primary display space for GM products as well as a large meeting space—the architects integrated new technologies and updated the original design team’s creative interventions, while remaining consistent with the original design.

An updated central lighting ring now allows for vehicles to be spotlighted, when needed, and integrated multimedia capabilities are available to abolish the solemnity required for evaluating designs and to invigorate the space with a sense of theatricality when presenting finished projects to the world. The multimedia elements are seamlessly integrated into the dome skin and a steel soffit ring. Nearby, the design of the new control desk takes its form from a 1940 Cadillac hood ornament.

To engage GM’s management more directly with the products, an existing conference room adjacent to the auditorium floor has been transformed into a fully functional boardroom faced with ultra-clear glass. With proximity and unobstructed views, corporate decisions regarding product development can be rendered in real time.

While the team was not tasked with preserving a historic structure as a museum of past accomplishments, it has nimbly evolved Saarinen’s original design into a space of continued corporate benefit.

Additional information

Cost Estimator: Kirk Value Planners, LLC

Engineer - Civil: SmithGroupJJR

Engineer - MEP: SmithGroupJJR

Engineer - Structural: SmithGroupJJR

General Contractor: Roncelli, Inc.

Geothermal System: SmithGroupJJR

Historic Preservation: SmithGroupJJR

Lighting Design: SmithGroupJJR

Specifications Consultant: SmithGroupJJR

Sustainability Consultant: SmithGroupJJR

Audio/Visual Consultant: AVI-SPL


Hagy Belzberg, FAIA (Chair), Belzberg Architects, Santa Monica, California

Jodi R. Ernst, AIA, Universal Studios, Orlando

Karen Fairbanks, AIA, Marble Fairbanks, Brooklyn, New York

Paula Peer, AIA, Trapolin-Peer Architects, New Orleans

Jim Poteet, FAIA, Poteet Architects, LP, San Antonio

Image credits

GeneralMotorsDesignAuditorium 01

James Haefner Photography

GeneralMotorsDesignAuditorium(10) 02

James Haefner Photography

GeneralMotorsDesignAuditorium(11) 03

James Haefner Photography

GeneralMotorsDesignAuditorium(12) 04

James Haefner Photography

GeneralMotorsDesignAuditorium(13) 05

James Haefner Photography