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Charleston Spoleto Festival Music and Painting Center | Charleston, SC


The city of Charleston in South Carolina is located on a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Having suffered both physical and economic decline through the Civil War and a major earthquake, the city has been built up and repaired several times, creating a historically rich and layered condition. The city comprises mostly eighteenth- and nineteenth century buildings, with a more modern area farther north. Each year, the Spoleto Festival USA takes place in the city, modeled after the Spoleto Festival held annually in Spoleto, Italy. The festival brings an inundation of art, dance, theater and music to Charleston, providing a mix of both young performers and artists and veterans.

A client has requested a proposal for a Charleston Music and Painting Center, to be located in a vacant lot of roughly 15,000 sq.ft. south of Queen St., between State St. and Meeting St. in the theater district. The Music and Painting Center comprises a gallery for painting exhibitions, a performance hall for small ensemble musical performances as well as public meetings, and six studios for the Spoleto Fellows. Each studio serves as a live/work space. The entry hall provides access to the different spaces, while the administrative space contains offices, a meeting room, and a small kitchen. Courtyard space is integrated into the design and is used in conjunction with the primary functions of the Center.


Along the western edge of the site is the gallery, and nestled into it three stories up are the studios. The studios open up to the east to take advantage of the cool breezes coming off of the water. This formation creates an atrium within the gallery, which is enclosed by a layered skin to create optimal viewing conditions of pieces of art; protecting them from harsh, direct light, and allowing light to bounce through a series of panels and bleed into the space.

The entry hall, located at the northern entrance to the site, serves as the node that connects all the spaces together. Above the entry hall, administrative offices overlook the street, and take advantage of the shade provided to them by the performance hall on the top level. The performance hall, equipped with a moveable stage, overlooks the western and northern parts of the city, as it also prevents harsh, winter winds from becoming too unbearable to the Fellows living in the studios. This space and the gallery are the most visible spaces of the center, conceptually drawing influence, and bringing in people from around the city.

Pedestrians navigate through the site via the outdoor courtyard: an extension of the pedestrian alleys located to the east and north of the site. Thus the Music and Painting center fills a void, stitching together larger parts of the city and improving the system of movement.

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