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A much welcomed final approval was offered by the Board of Architectural Review.  The next step in this process is a vote by Charleston City Council, scheduled for Tuesday, July 17th. Please take a moment to view a virtual tour of the renovated Gaillard Center, on our Facebook Page.


After receiving Conceptual Approval from the Board of Architectural Review (B.A.R.), the Design Team and the Civic Design Center addressed the concerns that the B.A.R. raised in May’s meeting. The concerns included issues with the space being kid-friendly, a clear pathway hierarchy and signage.

The updated plans for the Gaillard Center Arts Precinct has removed a granite curb that was part of the originally proposed plans.  The curb posed a potential safety hazard for children playing on the large open space designated as their play field.  Additionally reinforced turf, including an irrigation system, a drainage system and a synthetic reinforced root system provide a soft and durable open space for students of Buist Academy and the community alike. 

The path along Calhoun Street has been expanded to elevate its prominence as an important entrance to the Gaillard and the Arts Precinct. Bluestone has been extended throughout all of the major axes. The  consistency of paving attributes to the quality of the Precinct and safety for play.  

The final concern raised by the B.A.R. was the number of kiosks in the original proposal.  In the updated plan, there is a single kiosk on the corner of Anson and Calhoun Streets. The design of the kiosk has not yet been decided.

The Board of Architectural Review (BAR) was established in 1931 with the creation of the first preservation ordinance in the United States.

As stated in the City of Charleston Zoning Ordinance, the purpose of the Board is “the preservation and protection of the old historic or architecturally worthy structures and quaint neighborhoods which impart a distinct aspect to the city and which serve as visible reminders of the historical and cultural heritage of the city, the state, and the nation.”  The BAR reviews all new construction, alterations and renovations visible from any public right-of-way.

In reviewing alterations to historic properties and proposed new structures, the BAR adheres to the principles established by the “Charleston Standards.” BAR meetings are open to the public and are typically held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month at 75 Calhoun Street.

On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, the Charleston Civic Design Center presented the plans for the Gaillard Center Arts Precinct to the Board of Architectural Review. The BAR Presentation is available via this link. In addition to the presentation, the BAR received a site plan of the Arts Precinct depicting proposed layout of all structures, proposed layout of all walkways and loading areas, walls and gates, existing buildings adjacent to the property, demolition of existing site features and how the plan relates to the site. The CCDC also provided the BAR with architectural drawings depicting the elevations of the site, documentation of existing grade/flood plain requirements. Photographs of the existing site and structure were also included in the submission. These photographs help to explain the context of the Gaillard Center Arts Precinct, including buildings and site features. Additionally, material selections were also provided so the BAR could make a fully informed decision.

Before granting Conceptual Approval, the BAR raised some questions about the hierarchy of paths leading to the Gaillard Center’s entrance and whether the space could be more child-friendly. The design team is working hard to address these issues.

The Design Team took the information gathered from the community workshop and reassessed the priorities and layout of the space. Another important component of the Gaillard Arts Precinct was that it be a cohesive and dynamic component of the Gaillard Center. The Design Team decided to take a new direction and proposed a solution that reoriented the spaces into new geometries.  The new design reflects the ovals that are consistent throughout the Gaillard Center.

The Schematic Plan for the Arts Precinct involves many pieces. The area labeled as “Lawn” is an oval event lawn, with bluestone edging, granite steps and a focal planting area at the south end of the oval lawn.  The lawn is kept relatively level as walkways slope to maximize event usage. Ornamental planting areas highlight the space and a central meeting place was developed with specialty pavements between the pavilions. Trees provide separation between the oval lawn and the Banquet Lawn and screens the parking garage from the Anson Street entry point.

The area behind the Charleston Civic Design Center will serve as a focal area at the east end of the main lawn, with specialty paving. It will also incorporate a loading area between the CCDC and 75 Calhoun Street. Bluestone paving will be featured on main paths and standard concrete will be used for secondary walkways.  Ornamental plantings, trees for shade and benches for comfortable seating will also be added to the space.

The Rose Garden is between the intersection of Anson Street and Calhoun Street, and the Charleston Civic Design Center. It will feature the Noisette Roses that are currently in the space, and plenty of benches and shaded seating opportunities. The walkways of the space will be composed of crushed stone with handmade brick edging. Rose garden arbors will be incorporated to support climbing roses and a low wall will identify the primary entry viewpoint corridor.  This low wall will match the proposed George Street entrance.

The space along Anson Street, just below the Banquet Terrace noted on the map will feature a concrete header, which provides a formal edge for the upper lawn area.  A live oak tree along Anson Street will be preserved and has been coined as the “Learning Tree” as seating steps under it provide an opportunity for an outdoor classroom area. These steps will be composed of concrete with cobble infill.  Additionally, semicircular walkways were designed to respect the tree while allowing for multiple connections from Anson Street provide ample space for Buist Academy students and pedistrians to enter the space.


In January 2012, the Design Team and the Civic Design Center invited stakeholders to the first in a series of workshops to gain insight from the community for the planning process of the Gaillard Center Arts Precinct. Stakeholders for the Gaillard Arts Precinct included members of the neighboring residential areas, Preservation associations, performing arts professionals, event coordinators, representatives from the Charleston County School District and the College of Charleston, and surrounding business owners.  The Design Team asked focus groups several questions about the green space:

  • How would you like to see the space used?
  • What type of activities would you like to see here?
  • What currently works best about the space?
  • What needs to be most improved?
  • How would you describe or envision the space?

We found a few common themes after asking these questions.  Important aspects came up again and again: flexibility to accommodate multiple users and uses including performance spaces, plenty of green, open space, shaded areas, places to sit, a  garden that “feels like a garden”,  a variety of spaces and that the precinct be recognized as a place of civic significance for the community.

Additionally, five major “sections” or uses were identified. These included a buffer zone, a garden area for the Noisette roses, green space for a playing field and other recreational use, a promenade that serves as the primary axis to the Gaillard Center and a terrace in front of the Banquet Hall.

Following these discussions, the design team was able to adapt the plans for the Gaillard Arts precinct to meet more of the needs identified by the stakeholders.

Buist Academy

Buist Academy was also defined as a stakeholder in the Gaillard Arts Precinct. Buist Academy is undergoing expansion and reconstruction as well and the Design Team and the CCDC wanted to commit to ongoing use of thre green space by Buist Academy, including a State-Required 80′ x 100′ field.

In February, the Civic Design Center hosted a workshop with 50 6th grade students from the adjacent Buist Academy. The CCDC worked with the teams to establish a clear set of expectations from the students at Buist Academy, as they remain  primary users of the space.  The students were grouped into teams to explore options to create the best possible environment for the users of the space.  They requested plenty of green space, gardens and open space, water features, sculptures, places to sit to read or to have picnics, and many of the teams had several performance spaces scattered throughout the precinct. Teams of students brainstormed various uses for the space which include educational, recreational, aesthetic, and artistic and performance activities.

The design process for the Gaillard Center Arts Precinct began with an overall assessment of the space. We identified the nearby occupants and potential users of the space, including the Gaillard Center, Buist Academy, the Charleston County Library and City of Charleston offices. From there, we conducted an inventory of existing site elements. We saw the Noisette Rose Garden and the Riley Fountain as primary focal points of the existing space and understood that they needed to remain in the redesigned space.  After taking this inventory, programmatic elements that needed to be addressed in the Gaillard Arts Precinct were identified:

  • Maximize the play space, but make sure it is as flexible as possible (allowing for cultural and art opportunities as well).
  • Make sure the green space is irrigated.
  • 80’x100’ is the minimum size for a full size play field.
  • Make sure there is some form of protection/a  barrier between the play space and both of the streets.
  • Create an urban edge to Calhoun Street that is an attractive possibly shaded rest area, that does not diminish the views of the Gaillard.
  • Enhance the connection to Calhoun, especially at the cross walk. This may include a new linear water feature.
  • Create opportunity for enhanced event signage, possibly along 85 Calhoun.
  • The elevated terrace should support expansion for events held in the Gaillard Center, but also always needs to feel like a part of the green space, and not exclusively a part of the exhibition space. It should also be grass rather than hard-scaped.
  • The Noisette Rose Garden should be relocated behind 85 Calhoun. It should work to screen the western façade of 75 Calhoun, and offer an opportunity for an outdoor classroom area/performance area, as well as an enhanced garden experience. Acoustic and visual privacy from Calhoun could make it more useable as an outdoor event space.
  • The panoramic experience of the Gaillard block from Calhoun and Anson should be maintained as should the view of the Gaillard’s entrance though 85 Calhoun.
  • The tree cover should be thought of as how it will appear in 20 years’ time. It should be minimized in the play space, and concentrated along Anson, Calhoun, and act as a barrier for facades of 75 Calhoun and the Parking Garage.
  • Areas for activities and tents should be placed so as not to ruin the overall experience and functionality.
  • Consider daily wear and tear; place green spaces so that their condition will not compromise the experience.

As a parallel investment to the Gaillard Center, this project envisions new open-air public performance spaces and artistic infrastructure, demonstrating how the arts advance livability and strengthen communities by giving expression to shared civic values and cultural identity.

The Gaillard Arts Precinct will weave the Charleston community together.

In the last five years, Charleston has reinvested in the performing arts facilities and linked the city together in an important way. The Gaillard Arts Precinct will become part of Charleston’s larger performing arts infrastructure.

Parks and public spaces throughout Charleston each have an identity of their own.  As it is today, the open space adjacent to the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium is underutilized and lacking a sense of place or identity.  Plans for the redesign of the space will offer great flexibility of uses, a heightened sense of identity and will increase the cultural experiences available to the community.

City of Charleston Parks:Charleston Greenspaces

Marion Square

Marion Square is the home to many monuments, including a Holocaust memorial and a statue of John C. Calhoun atop a giant pillar. During the summer the square hosts a farmers market on Saturdays, “Movies in Marion Square” and various festivals such as the Food and Wine Festival and the renowned Spoleto Arts Festival’s Artists’ Village throughout the year.

Liberty Square

Liberty Square is a park and landmark operated by the National Park service at the end of Calhoun street dedicated to all of those who have sacrificed so that we may enjoy liberty today. Ferry boats leave daily from the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center, located adjacent to Liberty Square and the South Carolina Aquarium. It is the home of Charleston’s First Day Festival which is aimed at generating widespread community support and excitement about the beginning of another school year.
Concord Park
The majority of the land (4.9 acres), and area roughly the size of Marion Square is located in the center of the property it will become a redesigned city park with athletic fields, restrooms and other amenities.
Waterfront Park
Opened in May 1990, Waterfront Park is a long, curving expanse of green that includes a 1,200-foot promenade along the water’s edge, shade structures, participatory fountains, lawns and seating walls, quiet gardens under a grove of live oaks, a walking and jogging path and a long pier with picnic tables and wooden swings.

 Gaillard Center Arts Precinct
The existing parks surrounding the Gaillard Center Arts Precinct each serve a distinct purpose, but each is lacking the design elements necessary to support the arts. The Arts Precinct will fit seamlessly into the community and generate an identity of its own and offer the opportunity for cultural experiences that will increase the quality of life for Charleston’s residents and visitors.

In Summer 2011, the City of Charleston received an Our Town  grant for the Gaillard Center Arts Precinct from the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA supports and invests in projects that “are engaging design and leveraging the arts to create livable, sustainable neighborhoods with enhanced quality of life, increased creative activity, distinct identities, a sense of place, and vibrant local economies that capitalize on existing local assets.”  The Gaillard Center Arts Precinct, in its new design achieves this. Throughout its history, Charleston has stood as a cultural capital of the South. The performing arts are well represented here by a symphony orchestra, community theater groups and ballet companies. The Gibbes Museum of Art and numerous art galleries, along with the abundant examples of architectural excellence and craftsmanship, expose residents and tourists to the visual arts.

Each spring, Charleston hosts Spoleto Festival USA, the most comprehensive arts festival in the country. For seventeen days, the world’s finest dancers, musicians and actors take to the stage in a spirited homage to the arts. Simultaneously with Spoleto, the City’s Office of Cultural Affairs offers Piccolo Spoleto, which showcases the best of regional talent. These two major festivals and other artistic and cultural events utilize the City’s many arts venues, as well as the wonderfully designed parks and public spaces throughout the historic city.

One important venue is the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, built in 1968 as a multi-purpose facility designed to meet the varied needs of the citizens of the area. The 2,734 seat theatre and adjacent exhibition hall are the home for performing arts events, dance recitals, touring and local theatre, lectures, expos and conferences, and community events. An extensive renovation and addition to this facility will being in 2012. The Gaillard Center Arts Precinct Project will build upon this investment, transforming the public open space surrounding the Gaillard into a new place for artistic and cultural celebrations for citizens and visitors.

The CCDC received the Our Town Grant because of the City’s need for a space dedicated to such cultural opportunities.  Central to the Charleston Civic Design Center’s mission, the design process was very collaborative in nature, involving Gaillard Performance Hall Foundation, Coastal Community Foundation, Spoleto USA and the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, Charleston County School District, the Mayor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families – organizations that focus on the participation and advancement of young people – and the City of Charleston Department of Parks. Additionally, the design process was built upon an inclusive foundation generated from the specific participation of the target community.