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“Design on the Menu” Architecture Las Vegas Magazine Issue 11 / 2016

"Embracing the art of knowing when to leave well enough alone"

October 1, 2016

It’s great to have one of our projects (Atomic Restaurant) featured in Issue 11 of Architecture Las Vegas magazine.  Jason Scavone (contributing writer) and I had a good conversation about restaurant design and how a concept or theme is developed and realized.  Enjoy the article:

The Atomic Liquors revival, opened in 2013 to a wave of preservationist joy and dipsomaniacal enthusiasm, was an instant hit, landing on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and in the hearts of anyone who had a soft spot for the mid-century original.

Part of the plan was to always convert the adjacent garage into a small restaurant, but it took owners Lance and Kent Johns a couple years to get there.  Enter Dwayne Eshenbaugh, AIA at NOVUS, who was presented with  … a crumbling husk  – and a mandate to design a spot that could honor the history there and serve existing clientele while bringing in an upscale element to compete with the higher-end venues that are expected to move into that part of Fremont Street.

“One of the things we wanted to sort of maintain was some of the integrity.” Eshenbaugh says.  “The building, frankly, was in pretty bad shape.  We had to enhance some of the structural systems.  We took the entire roof off.  One thing we did do was we kept all of the wood, the roof joists.  We kept all that material and we are reusing quite a bit of that in the interior.  I think the bar facade is going to be clad with those old two-by-twelves that have been standing there, supporting that roof since 1946.  We wanted to keep in that sort of mid-century vibe and feel and not bring something too swanky and clean and sparkly.”

Eshenbaugh embraced brick and wood to compliment the light cream color scheme, and touched it all up with mid-century-style fixtures.  But he also wanted to leave intact what he could.  There are concrete columns he left alone, even though if someone goes at them with a mind to, they can wrest free chunks of the original material from the columns.  Remembering the building’s original life matters.  “I think it still reads as the garage,” he says.  “The original architecture is still there.”

Architecture Las Vegas is published twice annually by the Las Vegas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in partnership with Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion Magazine.

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