The trickle of a fountain, a fanfare of rose bushes in bloom, the dappled shade of live oaks, a broad oval of blossoming cherry trees, and elegant bluestone walkways through playful pavilions and verdant lawns. The sight of this Calhoun Street has never seen, but the opening this month of the new Gaillard Center will give Charleston this, too.

With the opening of the new performance hall, municipal complex and exhibition space all situated in the elegant neoclassical building fronting one of Charleston’s main thoroughfares, the city gains a textured public garden that designers and architects hope will be a gathering point, an occasion for a stroll and an oasis.

“Not everyone may go into the building for a concert, but I hope they will be lured into this space and they will participate in it,” said Kim Hawkins of Hawkins Partners Inc. of Nashville, Tenn., who designed the park. “The park is a forecourt to the building, but it stands very much on its own. It is a civic gesture; it is a civic park.”

Cindy Cline, landscape architect with Wertimer and Associates in Charleston, which curated the plants for the project, said the park offers a harmonious combination of flowers and trees and functional play-space. “It will be a full garden experience … beautiful and yet utilitarian,” she said.

The new gardens begin, in their slightest form, on the George Street side, with added oak trees, smaller flowering bushes and trees such as the purple-blooming Vitex, and dense, low vegetation. The gardens meander around the building to Anson Street, along which longstanding oak trees that have been protected will combine with new ones to eventually create a thick border between the street and the inner park and a nice walking experience, said Cline.

Bursts of color from agapanthus and lilies and smaller grassy areas will lead to the area fronting Calhoun Street, the most densely planted. Thick with flowering plants and crepe myrtles, along with benches to sit, the landscaping along Calhoun Street is designed to be a break from the street, to create an oasis for the visitor walking to the aquarium, or a place for residents to stroll and sit at the end of the day. At the heart of it is an heirloom rose garden with the historic Noisette rose as star and inspiration. There, in this true Southern garden, crushed stone crunches underfoot, and the linearity of brick edging and dwarf boxwoods meets with a party of color that includes lilies, salvia, irises and flowering shrubs.

“Within the formality of the garden there is a righteous grouping of blooming plants that will be lovely from spring into fall,” Cline said.

From there one enters the heart of the park, a large oval lawn perfect for a picnic, a concert or throwing a ball. With clean bluestone borders, the lawn is enveloped by a belt of Yoshino cherry trees, whose clouds of soft white blossoms will announce the arrival of spring.

Leading to the Gaillard’s entrance is a deliberate architectural progression of classically inspired spaces that invite from the central oval lawn through another smaller oval lawn, past rows of Chinese elm and symmetrical planted areas, and finally to an enclosed and intimate bluestone courtyard. A quadrangle of four pavilions, limestone and stucco miniatures that evoke the classical feeling of the new Gaillard, marry building and garden.

Most practically, the unfolding of the spaces leading to the front door serves to pleasantly divert from the “collision” of the Gaillard with the adjacent parking garage, said Steve Knight of David M. Schwarz Architects, the Washington, D.C-based firm that designed the Gaillard Center.

“The progression of spaces follows in the well-established tradition of Charleston where the best gardens feel like rooms with a definite order and symmetry to them,” said Knight.

A second raised “terrace” lawn, toward the Anson Street side of the building and directly accessible from inside the Gaillard’s exhibition space, is conceived as a space for events, small concerts or parties, or activities connected to an event inside, such as a wedding.

“That space is very cognizant of the outdoor-indoor experience of the building,” said Hawkins. “Space is so precious in Charleston, so the idea of that small area serving many needs for the community is very important.”

Indeed, while architecturally evocative, the gardens are practical. The lawn areas are fiber-reinforced for better drainage and to hold up to heavier social use in the case of community events, dance and play. Also, the park is equipped with a centrally controlled “smart” irrigation system that reads soil moisture and evapotranspiration rates to determine the need for water. The system is expected to use about 20 percent less water than a traditional irrigation system, Hawkins said.

A few colorful nooks and details add texture to the park: a fountain in the rose garden, a memorial to Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.’s mother, salvaged from the old Gaillard rose garden; on the east side of the project, a small oval paved in bluestone that is equipped with electricity for an informal concert. Also, on the Anson Street side are a small amphitheater under an oak tree and another small lawn surrounded by trees, a perfect place for an outdoor classroom.

Curiously, the Gaillard Center’s gardens were initially peripheral to the idea of renovating the old Gaillard Auditorium.

As the design and plans for the building progressed, however, the importance of the concept of the gardens emerged and began to evolve. A grant was identified to pay for the gardens’ design.

Overall, the Gaillard’s gardens have the classical harmony that comes from strong, orderly borders, Knight said, within which the extravagance and warmth of color can freely bloom.

“Good edges make good gardens, or so my landscape architect friends say,” he said.