Gaillard Auditorium a shell of its former self
The inside of the Gaillard Auditorium looks as if a pack of rampaging rock stars had their way.
The roof is gone, leaving the building open to the sky above. Piles of rubble litter the ground. And all the concert hall seats have been ripped out and sold, some destined as far away as Peru.
The only music being played is an annoying avant-garde beep-beep-beep of heavy machinery backing up.
But the construction team says they’re on schedule.
Six-days-a-week worth of work — starting at 7 a.m. — have pushed the $142 million overhaul speedily toward the completion of its demolition-phase, set toward the end of this year.
To date, some 500 tons of the old Gaillard have been carted away, most destined for recycling.
After the building’s shell is picked clean, workers will begin the construction phase, which includes wrapping new city offices around on the south and west sides, and upgrading the entire performance interior.
“It’s maybe one of the most challenging projects we’ve ever done,” said Bob Ferguson, project executive with Skanska USA Building Inc., pointing to the fact that hundreds of residents, a church, a school, a library and several major thoroughfares operate near the construction zone.
Officials took members of the media on a tour Monday showing the work accomplished so far and exposing a Gaillard that is just a mere shell of its former self, looking more like a war zone than concert hall.
On the horizon: The building’s central hallway will be opened so that trucks can drive through, get loaded with debris and drive out again through the other side.
Also, because the Gaillard sits in a flood plain, the floor will have to be raised 8 inches.
Inside, one big change to the concert hall is the seating plan. In addition to floor-level orchestra rows, three tiers of seats will rise above in a horseshoe pattern that’s popular in major performance venues.
The layout will provide “a better acoustic volume, a better acoustic experience in the hall,” said Michael Maher, director of the city’s Charleston Civic Design Center. “It’s a very traditional format.”
The $142 million Gaillard Center renovation will turn the 1968-era auditorium and exhibition space into a modern and more acoustically sound building to better support the Spoleto Festival USA and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, among other presentations.
Most of the cost, about $96 million, is slated toward renovating the main performance space, including reducing the 2,730-seat auditorium to 1,800.
While the sounds to come are expected to be crystal clear, residents living nearby still have complaints about early morning and constant construction noises. Some have also experienced heavy jarring that has rattled homes.
Steve Hanson, president of the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, called the situation for the locals “controlled chaos” that forces residents to make the best of a bad setup for the next two years, until the project ends by 2015. He hoped for an easing of the early morning noise start-up time, especially on the weekends.
Meanwhile, officials said Monday nothing of value has been detected at the site, but that precautions are in place to prevent would-be artifact hunters from trying to enter the disturbed grounds.
That includes installation of a 24-hour webcam.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.