Three Questions for Rock in Rio Architect

Craig Palacios on the right | Photo by Anthony Mair

Craig Palacios on the right | Photo by Anthony Mair

When the gates to the City of Rock swing open in May for the inaugural Rock in Rio USA festival, they’ll do so with the help of a local act: Downtown-based architectural firm Bunnyfish Studios has been asked to consult on the look of the 33-acre open-air venue at Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue. One of the firm’s two principals, Craig Palacios, tells us what’s required to build a city on rock and roll.

Rock in Rio is a huge, huge deal. How did you and Bunnyfish co-founder Tina Wichmann land this whale?

We heard from a big tent manufacturer (Classic Tents of Torrance, California), by way of a colleague of ours who works at the Southern Nevada Water [Authority]. Third-hand, Classic Tents called us out of the blue and said they’d reached a certain point in the project where they needed an architect. So we set up a meeting with the Rock in Rio guys, and we got along singingly. They were awesome.

Their outfit reminds me so much of Life Is Beautiful: a bunch of young, musically interested people, making this thing happen. The work we’re doing on City of Rock is specific to this event. They hired us pretty late, so it’s an aggressive time frame.

What kind of work did they need Bunnyfish to do?

It’s not as romantic as you might think. An architect has two general roles: One is to make things beautiful and interesting and fun, and the other is to make them safe and livable. On this project, we’re helping them in that second role. We’re taking all these parts and pieces from their Rio and Barcelona festivals that they’re shipping to Vegas, and we’re helping to get those parts fire-tested, to determine if they’re buildable here in the United States, that they meet ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements, and that they fit within our local code requirements. It’s kind of similar to the work we just did on The D’s Downtown Events Center … only on acid. This is insanely bigger than that.

What’s the best part of this gig?

Working on a Strip property that’s been derelict and shitty for too many years. And it’s something that’s going to bring an intense number of people to the neighborhood; it’s going to become like a little city 10, 12 times a year. That’s an awesome thing to us, both as architects and as neighbors.