Justus Pang, with Bunnyfish Studio, is the project architect charged with redesigning the Bunkhouse and expanding its capacity for the Downtown Project.
Bunkhouse was a popular destination for the UNLV crowd and the indie bar scene. “As part of the design project, our charge was ‘how do we improve the old Bunkhouse without losing what made it special to begin with,’” Pang said.
When Downtown Project purchased Bunkhouse, the initial plan was to shut down for a couple of months to clean up the building and bring it into modernity from a technology and food service standpoint. But that turned out to be a bigger challenge than originally expected.
Years of heavy use resulted in structural deficiencies that needed remediation. The floor was rotten, the roof was caving, and the ceiling was “just kind of leaning there.”
“The actual building was a wooden house with a series of additions. We took out the old bar to replace it with a new bar in the same location. But by the time we were done, all we had left was three walls,” Pang said. The building had to be rebuilt; but the spirit of the building was still intact.
For Bunnyfish, part of the fun was to keep the original Bunkhouse components that make the place Bunkhouse. The original stage with Bunkhouse logo is now the ceiling above the bar, the graffiti fence is now a feature in the backyard area, and the original artwork and decorations will be reinstalled, including the iconic deer head.
They took advantage of an opportunity to upgrade the acoustical performance so that Bunkhouse can offer a top-of-the-line soundboard, to the benefit of both the performing bands and the revelers.
Bunnyfish worked to tear out the parking lot and turn it into an outdoor seating area with pass-through windows for ordering food and drink in the backyard. Eventually, they would like to install an outdoor stage. After all the planned construction is complete, the new Bunkhouse property can accommodate up to 1,500 people.
Bunnyfish is continuing to work on the Bunkhouse Campus even after the Bunkhouse grand opening on August 25th.
The campus will include a pedestrian-only connector experience to draw people from Fremont, ticket booth, additional restrooms for outdoor concerts and green rooms for visiting bands.
“It’s been a very interesting, collaborative process,” Pang said. “We are working on attracting a new crowd while not losing the crowd that made the Bunkhouse distinctive. It’s a case of trying hard but not trying too hard.”
ABOUT BUNNYFiSH studio
In 2011, UNLV graduates Craig Palacios and Tina Wichmann created BUNNYFiSH studio , an intimate collaborative architecture firm. Focused on making a high impact in its Las Vegas home, Bunnyfish has designed dozens of projects including work commissioned by Tony Hsieh's Downtown Project such as Inspire Theater, John E. Carson (including Kerry Simon's Carson Kitchen and O Face Doughnuts), Hydrant Club, and Gold Spike + Oasis. Although Bunnyfish Studio projects have mostly focused on adaptive reuse of existing buildings in the downtown urban environment, Bunnyfish Studio has been expanding to the Las Vegas Strip with projects such as Sambalatte at Monte Carlo and in Summerlin and Henderson with projects commissioned by Jeffrey Fine and Jonathan Snyder's restaurant development group.