The Charleston Gaillard Center


City of Charleston, South Carolina


Project Size: 

1,800 Seats

18,000 SF banquet hall

61,000 SF office building

4 stories

Architects: David M. Schwarz Architects / Earl Swensson Associates

The Charleston Gaillard Center

South Carolina

When it opened almost a half century ago, the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium was a state-of-the-art facility that undergirded historic Charleston’s long-standing commitment to the arts. From the very first opera performance in the United States to the annual Spoleto Festival, Charleston has been host to world renowned arts events. The years took a toll, however, and over time the Gaillard Auditorium could not keep up with the city’s arts growth and in fact hindered it. Inadequacies in size, sound quality, accessibility, and the overall experience for theater patrons contributed to a growing divide between the needs of the community and the capabilities of their center for the arts.

Through this revitalization project, the Charleston Gaillard Center has been restored and transformed into a world-class performance venue that has propelled Charleston back into the national limelight as a prominent center for the arts. The original Gaillard Municipal Auditorium was partially demolished and replaced with a state-of-the-art, four-level, 1,800-seat performance hall, an updated 18,000 SF exhibition hall, and new banquet facilities. The adjoining new 61,000 SF civic office building houses the City of Charleston’s new Emergency Operations Center.

The Gaillard Center re-opened in 2015 to rave local and national reviews, and has contributed an estimated annual economic impact of $40 million for Charleston. By using intelligent renovation and retrofit to bring the facility up to current hurricane, seismic, and flood requirements rather than a complete teardown and replacement, Walter P Moore helped deliver a world-class performing arts venue for a fraction of the cost of a new venue, saving the City of Charleston an estimated $65 million and demonstrating resilient, urban redevelopment and civic stewardship.



Although multi-discipline 3D models are commonly used today, when design began for this project in 2010, several key members of the design team were still using 2D CAD. Recognizing the complexity and intense spatial coordination requirements of the project, Walter P Moore took the initiative to develop a 3D BIM using REVIT Structure including a full model of the existing structure. We then led the team through progressive modifications of this model as the design evolved to include areas of demolition, new structural elements, and other building systems. This effort was essential to the effective coordination of the multi-disciplinary design process.