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The New Gaillard Center

David M. Schwarz Architects

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City of Charleston

Project Status


Year Completed



23,300 sq. feet

Construction Cost

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Project Description


Since its beginning, Charleston has been a vibrant commercial hub and an enlightened center of culture and intellectual life. Music has been at the heart of Charleston’s culture and heritage since Colonial times. Charleston applauded the first opera in the nation, and by the 1820s it had become a regular stop on the itinerary of traveling performers in opera, theater, and orchestral music. The late 1800s and early 1900s experienced a burgeoning performance scene, taken to new heights on the world stage three decades ago as Charleston leaders and arts patrons brought to life Spoleto Festival USA, now a renowned Festival attended annually by patrons from the world over. The Charleston Symphony Orchestra continues to strengthen and attract audiences of all ages. Indeed, by the opening of an acoustically-superior hall, the CSO will debut a new music director and perform to great fanfare. Taken together, the existence of a truly dynamic college performing arts program, an esteemed art museum and many noted theater companies, an eager community awaits a world-class Center worthy of the arts in Charleston. The City has, unsurprisingly, been heralded as one of the Top 25 Arts Designations in the world and The Top City in America for three consecutive years according to Conde Nast Traveler. 

Reminiscent of Charleston’s classical architectural legacy, the neo-classical Gaillard Center is designed to blend within its historic neighborhood character to offer residents and visitors an exquisite performance venue; ballroom and exhibition space of true elegance and great flexibility; an efficiently organized array of City offices; and a lush and inviting lawn and gardens designed for children, performances, and events with historic Noisette roses, fountains, and beautiful green space. The Gaillard Center will transform life in Charleston, becoming a hub of artistic, intellectual, and civic activity.

Patrons will enter the Gaillard Center through a two-story grand lobby with stone-clad concourse, columns and sweeping stairways. Appealing social spaces are provided, featuring a two-story performance hall lobby, an elegant wood-paneled Founders Lounge, a sky-lit balcony lobby, and five patron hospitality centers.

These spaces are designed to transition easily to ballroom and exhibition hall space comprising 15,000 square feet of flexible event space, also with acoustical brilliance and a tasteful aesthetic that is quintessentially Charleston. In the city’s tradition of preserving physical spaces and practicing fiscal prudence, the building will be wrapped with City offices designed with practical applications for resident and business services now located variously and expensively across the City. This feature ensures a vibrant civic center by day in a 260,000 square foot LEED-certified building.

Performance Hall

The performance space of the new Gaillard has been sized to an 1800-seat chamber to create an intimate experience for performers and patrons. An essential collaboration with the Schwarz architectural team includes acousticians Akustiks, LLC and theater consultants Fisher Dachs Associates, Inc. The resulting acoustics will be near-perfect, having been meticulously integrated into the design, construction, and furnishing of every component of the new hall, ensuring that audience members not only become part of the acoustical design but also the exhilarating music and artistic experience.

Echoing the design of Europe’s great opera houses, the performance hall features an oval-shaped orchestra level with two center aisles, and three tiers of horseshoe-shaped balconies to enhance acoustics and bring audiences closer to the stage.

The Exhibition Hall

The Gaillard’s Exhibition Hall expands the building’s open and flexible ballroom and meeting facilities to nearly 15,000 square feet, giving Charleston unprecedented business, entertainment, and educational opportunities in a superior historical setting.

Beautiful and elegantly appointed to suit the most formal of weddings and the highest levels of business and commerce, the Exhibition Hall’s crown gems are a stunning grand ballroom that can be easily transformed into three rooms. In addition, four flexible, ready-to-use salons are available to be used for meetings or special events. All within walking distance of Charleston’s beautiful streets, sights, and other magnificent performance venues woven throughout its bustling fabric—from the historic Dock Street Theater to the renovated Memminger Auditorium, and from the Sottile Theater to the Cistern—creating a veritable arts precinct. The Gaillard Center gives our city a facility suitable for the renown and legacy it has earned worldwide in the arts, tourism, and business.

The Terrace

The Terrace is a festive outdoor space immediately accessible from the Exhibition Hall, surrounded by the beautiful gardens of the new Gaillard Center. The lawn is appropriate for a party or dancing or activities related to an ongoing event indoors. Measuring more than 7,000 square feet, it can also accommodate recreational or athletic uses, event tents, large group functions, performances, and general park activities. Its capacity accommodates 790 people for a reception and 610 people for a seated event. The Terrace greatly enriches both cultural and business event opportunities at the new Gaillard Center.

The Gaillard Lawn

As a parallel investment to the renovation of the Gaillard Center, the Gaillard Lawn brings together new open-air, shared-use public space and artistic infrastructure, demonstrating how the arts advance livability and strengthen communities by giving expression to shared civic values and cultural identity.

Like a deliberate progression of outdoor rooms leading up to the building, the Gaillard Lawn includes a textured tapestry of space: a rose garden featuring Charleston’s Noisette roses; event spaces for tent set-ups and the outdoor extension of interior activities; walkway access to facilities from multiple directions; and passive park space surrounded by diverse landscaping.
The view corridor of the Gaillard Lawn, majestic entry pavilions and porticos and columns from the Calhoun Street approach will be stunning.
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