Peace Center

Peace Center Renovations & Additions

Greenville, SC


Twenty years after its founding, Greenville’s Peace Center for the Performing Arts reckoned with its role in connecting the city’s thriving downtown with its newly developed riverfront park and the developing mixed-use arts district further west. As urban growth continued all around, the Peace Center’s original site posed challenges that negatively impacted the theater experience and segregated the building from the surrounding downtown fabric.

Through a rigorous phase of master planning, the Peace Center team identified several critical issues and mandates. The upper plaza included an asphalt bus drive, an inaccessible street corner, and a monochromatic brick paver plaza that did not foster outdoor gathering and provided no clear access to the river.  The lobby had half the allocated square footage of the Peace Center’s peer institutions, creating long queues for the restrooms and merchandise desk that hindered effective circulation. Furthermore, the Peace Center building and site did little to communicate a sense of place or showcase the activity happening within it.

Garvin Design Group led an extensive master plan study that highlighted unique opportunities to create a vibrant urban performing arts campus that would connect the Peace Center to Greenville’s recently developed downtown park and the revitalized Main Street. Design for the building’s renovation included more space for patrons in the Concert Hall lobby and leveraging the space to serve as a venue for outreach programs. A two-story, glass-enclosed Patron Lounge provides expansive views looking out of and into the building.  An outdoor trellis-covered balcony overlooks the new outdoor performance venue. A dynamic, redesigned urban plaza allows for greater integration with Main Street and outdoor events. A new fountain-lined promenade with Grand Stair and an elevator connects the upper plaza to the riverfront amphitheater, providing more convenient public access to the northern edge of Falls Park and the performance area below. Designed as an extension of the adjacent riverfront park, the reimagined outdoor amphitheater includes natural stone seat walls, open lawn areas, and a backdrop of the Reedy River. A new performance pavilion is structurally and technologically designed to accommodate top-tier performers. The structure’s steel tube columns anchor a sloping roof rising 30 feet at its apex. The ETFE tensile roof membrane is rendered translucent at night, emitting a warm glow from indirect LED light sources below.

Architectural details maximize the open, inviting nature of the additions and offer clarity to pedestrians moving through the site while highlighting the Peace Center’s original brick masonry pier construction. Travertine piers with broad aluminum and glass overhangs announce each of the three new primary lobby entrances. Ultra transparent, low-iron, high-performance structural glazing emphasizes the social and communal program of the facility while affording a respectful view of the original red-brick masonry architecture. Stone seat walls are used extensively inside and out, nurturing the Peace Center’s social mandate and integrating the new architectural features with the riverfront park beyond. The custom-faceted, suspended wood ceilings bridge the old and new material palettes while providing a dynamic canopy to the activities below. The existing soffits under the upper lobby levels are tapered and sculpted to promote improved daylighting and commanding views of the expanded lobby and plaza beyond. New second-floor balconies were added that project into the new two-story lobby additions further connecting the old and new and offering unparalleled views of the urban setting beyond. A new water wall and balcony overlook the reclaimed riverfront performance venue offering a unique 360-degree urban theater experience to patrons and performers alike.

Photography by Brian Dressler and Brenda Ernst.


phased additions
total project cost
state and local awards

“A gift to the community, this project creates an exciting gateway to a reclaimed river by means of a few deft additions to a concert hall and its site. A glassy layer of circulation expands the congested existing lobby and introduces a welcoming transparency out toward the street. A new glass-enclosed lounge opens the interior of the building back toward the river. A new performance shell at the water’s edge creates the focus for that view. A new lighting and event infrastructure make the riverfront the place to be for public spectacle.”

2014 AIA South Carolina jury comments


2014 Honor Award
AIA – Greater Columbia Section

2014 Merit Award
AIA – South Carolina Chapter

Peace Center plaza in the snow
Peace Center and amphitheater in the snow
Peace Center steps and amphitheater in the snow