The building was originally commissioned by William Durant, who was instrumental in the formation of General Motors; in fact, it was originally to be known as the Durant Building. The du Pont family had ousted Durant the year before, however, and the building was named the General Motors Building.
Durant had commissioned Detroit architect Albert Kahn in 1919 for a new central office for the burgeoning company, an assignment Kahn called "a rare privilege." The office was designed to meet the modern requirements of Roaring '20s office workers and was, relative to the traditional office building of the time, huge. With over 1.2 million sq ft; 1,800 offices; four miles of corridors; and 30 elevators, it was the second largest office building in the world when it was completed. Luxuries included a ballroom, a gymnasium, indoor swimming pools, a day hospital, a billiards room, barber shops, and clothiers.