The Juicebox/Soup Peddler Project (Zoso)

"Well, I figure... that is, I reckon... Well, let me look into that for you and try to get a number," I told my banker.

Over the previous few weeks, I had determined that the building in question, while incredibly located and laughably inexpensive, was essentially a glorified shed. Not even all that glorified. It's roughly 213 square feet, has no insulation, and has a roof drainage system that appears to be designed by someone who simultaneously had a lot of extra PVC and LSD on hand. An odd combination. And it has rounded corners. And it has these gawd-awful French doors. In fact, the Gauls and their descendents would shudder to have these doors even loosely associated with them. Bizarre vertical windows. No ADA compliance. No water.

You know, I dabble. I'm a pretty good little handyman. I can make stuff. I can handle a saw. I like a DIY challenge. But this, The Unglorified Shed, this was WAY beyond my capabilities. I called my friend Gregory Brooks, an architecture professor. I asked if he had any friends who could, you know, kind of on the cheap, help me with a nice little design.

He said, "You should call my friend Michael Hsu."

Pshaw. Michael Hsu. Uchi. Olivia. La Condesa. The Belmont. P. Terry's. Etcetera. Riiight.

I said, "I was kind of thinking someone more, like... I don't know, cheaper maybe?"

He said, "You should call him."

Like any good Lego-loving little engineerd, I am an architecture fan. When I was a kid, my folks took me to see Fallingwater.

I took architecture classes on Saturdays during middle school. I went to architecture camp during the summer. I used to carry a little pad and a hard pencil and a soft pencil and two triangles around with me. What ever happened to that childhood love of architecture? Well, I just figured I'd be able to pick up ever-more-desperate chicks in the engineering building at college, so I did that instead. Actually, that's not it. My parents advised me that architecture was a tough row to hoe and architects really didn't make much money, so I should go into engineering. I followed their sound parental advice. I do wonder what would've become of me had I chosen that path instead.

Eventually, once I had the space and time for it, I began to re-establish my love for architecture and design through little projects around the house.

So my first meeting at the Hsu Design Office was very exciting. The last time I had been in an architect's office, there were big tilted desks with those cool built-in T-squares. But the Hsu office, like I'm sure any modern-day architecture office, looks like an Apple commercial come to life. Neatly-groomed people pointing at things and discussing them together. The walls are covered with those inviting pastelly scribbly perspective renderings and everyone there has architect's handwriting.

Within moments of meeting Hsu himself, you realize why he's the man. He doesn't talk too much; in fact, he only talks when he has something substantive to say. He listens. He's warm and welcoming. Is he a genius? Tough to say... just like in a restaurant, it's hard to say if the chef is a genius or the people around him help create the illusion thereof.

We discussed all the ins, outs, and what-have-yous of the project. A big determination in the design was going to be the slippery eel known as City Code, and whether a restroom or two would be necessary for our intended use, a grease trap, what kind of seating we could get out of those investments. How the parking would work, etc.

With my banker in mind, I popped the question: "So, how much you figger this is gonna run?"

Hsu looked at me with a poker face to end all poker faces.

I gathered that he wasn't impressed with the timing of the question. I decided to let it slide until next time.

Next time, I got this:

My very own pastelly scribbly perspective drawing! Just like I always wanted! Just look at those humanoid blobs commingling over soup! Nothing makes ideas come to life like these drawings... as much of a spreadsheet nerd as I am, no pro forma could breathe life into the new business like this. No pie-in-the-sky imagining could do it either. THIS is the thing that I would show my banker. Bankers, spreadsheet uber-nerds that they are, LOVE renderings!

Unglorified Shed, I am beginning to love you... but how much will I have to pay for your love?

(to be continued)