General Motors Training Center | Los Angeles Conservancy
General Motors Training Center
Photo by Jessica Hodgdon/L.A. Conservancy

General Motors Training Center

The General Motors Training Center looks to be just a low-slung, unassuming Modern building on Riverside Drive in Burbank. Its modest appearance belies its forty-five-year legacy as a state-of-the-art training facility for GM mechanics and salesmen. In the mid-1950s, GM established a nationwide network of training centers to bring its employees up to date on the latest in automobile design and repair techniques. The new center in Burbank served parts of Nevada and Arizona as well as Southern California, boasting seven specialized shop classrooms, one for each of GM’s divisions.

Architect Earl Heitschmidt of Heitschmidt and Thompson designed the building in the Modern style, with a flat roof, simple brick cladding, and a fully glassed-in main entrance.

It was completed in 1954. The most distinctive feature on the main façade is a “T”-shaped white canopy that extends from the front entry and then across the front of the building, shading a concrete walkway. The canopy is held up by simple supports, slightly “spider leg” in style.

On the interior, the building contained an auditorium, conference room, cafeteria, and offices in addition to the shop rooms. The auditorium included a rotating turntable on the stage, so salesmen in the audience could view the latest GM automobile models from all angles. General Motors closed the training center in 1999, and the building is currently being rehabilitated for use by the Lycee International de Los Angeles, a college preparatory school.

Photo by Larry Underhill

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