The following is a report written by architect Dennis Wells to fellow employees and friends following news of “Russian Sam” obtaining his Visa. For what it’s worth, Dennis is way to shy in accepting credit and way too generous in attributing this effort to me. Also for what it’s worth, Dennis, Bud Miles, the folks at Creative Oklahoma and the staff of Rep. Mary Fallin are the ones who pulled this off. I’m just enjoying having a great story to tell!
October 29, 2010
In case you haven’t heard the story of “Russian Sam,” here is the Cliff Notes version: (Miles Associates is sponsoring his visit to OKC.)
Ilia Shvetsov is a 25-year-old hypermarket worker who lives in St. Petersburg Russia. “Russian Sam” is the pen name he uses on his website. Ever since he was a kid, he’s enjoyed making things out of paper. He grew to love making models of iconic American buildings, and eventually decided to build a model of an entire American downtown. After much research, he chose Oklahoma City because it has a good variety of architectural styles, and it was small enough to build (and there was a wealth of photographic information available due to OKC’s rich blogosphere). The model has amazing detail and accuracy. Ilia has never been outside Russia…
aka “Russian Sam”
The scale is 1:2000 (+/- 1” = 175’), but still the building signs, and the smallest details are legible. The base of the model is only about 2’ x 2’ in size. (Surf flickr for good pics)
Ilia’s model of Oklahoma City
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter for the Oklahoma City newspaper, and hosts a blog that has posted stories about Russian Sam’s progress during the last couple of years. A few months ago, I made the mistake of posting this comment on Steve’s blog: “Hey, we should raise funds to buy this guy a ticket to OKC, and give him a helicopter ride to see the real thing!”
The next day Steve published a story in the newspaper proposing (STEVE’S NOTE: I’d describe it as “asking” about the possibility rather than “proposing”) that Creative Oklahoma Inc. sponsor him to attend the pending Creativity World Forum (CWF) to be held in OKC Nov. 16-18.
In the same article, he elected me to be chief fund-raiser (I had offered to pitch in the first $50, and a place for Sam to stay…), so that’s how I got involved. Bud Miles thought it was a neat idea and agreed to buy his plane ticket. Creative Oklahoma Inc. is sponsoring Ilia’s attendance to the CWF, and is accepting tax-deductible donations to help offset all the expenses.
Ilia & I have been e-mailing back & forth during the last several weeks to coordinate some of the details required for him to get a visa. (He doesn’t speak English; he uses Google Translator!) It looked like the consulate was going to deny his request, but Steve Lackmeyer enlisted the aid of Mary Fallin’s office (STEVE’S NOTE: Yeah, this is pretty much true. I asked if they could “be of assistance) to pull some strings, and the visa was finally approved today. Sam is excited to be the first person he knows to visit America. His friends are in disbelief. He’s looking forward to seeing the real Oklahoma City (and eating the best hamburger he’s ever had!).
See more here: http://stateofcreativity.com/ and: http://blog.newsok.com/okccentral/
more pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/44533223@N08/sets/72157624599353907
Now that “Russian Sam” – real name Elijah Shvetsov – is set to attend the Creativity World Forum in Oklahoma City, let’s learn a bit more about the man and his project.
Elijah Shvetsov has never visited America. He has never visited Oklahoma City. But that didn’t stop the 25-year-old St. Petersburg hypermarket worker from attempting to build a minature model of downtown Oklahoma City – a project that earned him the admiration and friendship of hundreds of Oklahoma Citians half a world away.
Shvetsov started his hobby gluing pieces of paper together into buses at age 6. He assembled his first building model of the World Trade Center in 1997. After building models of prominent landmarks from around the world, he decided to build an entire downtown. After surveying cities worldwide, he chose Oklahoma City because of its density and relative compactness of its central business district. He sought out photos online and provided a glimpse of his project at www.skyscrapercity.com. It was there that some Oklahoma City residents found out about his work, and he was introduced on local community forum www.okctalk.com. Dennis Wells, an architect with Miles Associates, is leading the effort to bring “Russan Sam” (Elijah’s online handle) to Oklahoma City and is working with Creative Oklahoma to have him attend the Creativity World Forum on Nov. 16.
Creative Oklahoma will be extending free admission to the forum and a helicopter ride over the city if this mission is successful. Wells is set to host Elijah at his home – one of the new modern architectural residences popping up in an area known as SoSA – “South of St. Anthony (Hospital).”
To find out more about this project, email Dennis Wells at DWells@milesassociates.com. Contributions can be sent to Creative Oklahoma at 133 W Main Street, No. 100, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102. Creative Oklahoma is a 501c3 non-profit that promotes and catalyzes creative idea generation in individuals and institutions.
Now let’s learn about how “Russian Sam” built downtown Oklahoma City from the man himself:
1. How much money I’ve spent?
- $ 2 (20 white smooth sheets of paper)
- $ 12 (20% inks of 4 colors) Printer Canon iP3500
- $ 60 (6 months Internet)
- 2 cents for wadding
- free felt-pen
2. Officially model including 2024 parts (really about 2100)
3. 811 “trees”
3. 99 buildings & structurs (without skywalks)
4. First model was made March 10, 2010. It’s been Chase Tower
Last model was made August 12, 2010.
5. I used:
Google Earth by Google for measuring dimensions
Also 860 photos from:
and other sites
Information (height, floors):
and official sites of some buildings (ex. www.101parkave.com)
- computer (standart graphical redactor Microsoft Paint)
- needle (for glue)
- office glue
- colored felt pen
- brain & hands
As some of you know, in my off hours I’m having a blast working with Retro Metro OKC to make history more accessible. Our latest collection are some rarely seen films – an hour all together – of the old Oklahoma City street cars and Interurbans from the 1940s. To see the whole collection, go here: http://www.retrometrookc.org/the-george-winn-collection
Two incredible videos were recently posted on You Tube showing the current and future alignments of Interstate 40 south of downtown.
Future alignment (completion set for 2012)
(All videos are courtesy of ODOT)
Everyone knows you can’t enjoy Halloween without the ghost of Stephen Foster…..
Have a great weekend!
Met the Ghost of Stephen Foster at the Hotel Paradise
This is what I told him as I gazed into his eyes:
Ships were made for sinking,
Whiskey made for drinking,
If we were made of cellophane, we’d all get stinking drunk quite faster ha, ha, ha
Visa was approved today. I’ll be providing more details this afternoon.
UPDATE: Read story here.
The following guest blog is by Jeff Bezdek, who along with the Modern Transit Project led in advocacy of including a downtown streetcar system as part of MAPS 3. Due to some difficulties on photo uploads, the post was delayed a bit – but the post is still very timely.
“People like buses if they don’t have to ride them.
People like streetcars because they are not buses.”
Marilyn Strickland- Mayor of Tacoma
Dear Oklahoma City,
I am writing you from the dining car of the Amtrak Coast Starlight train. It’s been a busy few days meeting with transit officials in Seattle and Tacoma about their streetcars. I am on my way to Portland to tour their system now.
I had never been to Tacoma. Now I know why of former museum director, the late Carolyn Hill, fell in love with this place. Chihuly glass seems to be everywhere. The streetcar stops right in front of one of his biggest displays, the “bridge of glass” spanning across I-705. Oklahoma City has already gained a great deal from this “sister” city, importing some of the best North American art from this master. Perhaps the modern streetcar will be the next exciting marvel.
Coming here reminds me why we are doing this. Tacoma surprisingly has many other similarities other than the glass. It too uprooted its historic passenger rail facility for a highway. It too succumbed to the seductiveness of the automobile. The grand Union Station building still stands but has been repurposed for a federal courthouse. The city lost its inner core of vitality to the suburbs. The city transit service was compromised and quickly stigmatized.
The transit authority realized that the only way to entice new riders was to provide a superior mode of travel. Officials knew they needed something equally as seductive as the automobile. They chose the literally foreign concept of a modern streetcar. A company manufactured the cars in 2002 in the Czech Republic.
The Tacoma city council was so concerned about the potential excavation of their Main Street and the appearance of that “danged” overhead wire; they told the Sound Transit officials they had made their choice. The streetcar was to go down the “run down, back alley, abandoned store lined” street one block away from prized Main.
This early description permeated my thoughts as the brightly colored streetcar cheerfully greeted me with a “clang” of electronic bells and twinkling lights. Whirring up to a clearly marked stop, one can walk directly on board without impediment. Inside is bright and airy. A gong rings and an automated voice reminiscent of “anyone’s mother” welcomes you and tells you where “she’s” heading. You can see in nearly all directions through large glass windows. The operator is clearly visible behind a tinted glass door operating a console of lights, push buttons, and levers.
Tacoma officials made accommodations for me to ride in the cab with our operator, Jerry. Jerry expertly operated the controls with an animated flourish. He explained to me that he was a former Burlington Northern Santa Fe engineer. He told me that operating the streetcar was “one of the best experiences of his life.” In the cab we had a clear view of the entire exterior and interior of the train from strategically positioned cameras that displayed on a flat LCD screen. With a push of a button, he had the oncoming traffic signals at his command enabling him to “slice” through traffic to the next stop.
A family from a nearby suburb was down for the day with their grand kids. They had a bunch of kids. They told me that they would drive downtown, get on the streetcar for the Sunday, and let the streetcar take them to the latest sites, and there were many. The street was lined with gift shops, clothing stores, coffee shops, art galleries, and other businesses. I was shocked at how many people were “getting away” to downtown on a Sunday.
The transit officials explained that they understood the demand and responded to it. The streetcar went to the Chihuly glass, it went to their arena, it went to their businesses, and it went directly to their new convention center. In fact, it stopped directly across from it. When asked how they dealt with the crowds, they explained that they had a great working relationship with the police who would clear the way on foot with their whistles enabling the streetcars to get through the crush of pedestrians during events. They would send extra cars and “load up” as many people as they could get onboard headed to the parking garages and restaurants.
Over the day, I got off and on at various stops. It was on time, every time. When the digital board at the stops said it was coming, it came. A writer for the student newspaper of the University of Washington Tacoma branch wrote “The Link (that’s their name for the streetcar) will take off in the middle of your sprint for the door and not bother to look back to see you crying in the rain. Not to worry, another Link will be along in ten minutes.”
The Tacoma city council was shocked beyond belief when the floundering street flourished. Some wish now that the streetcar now looped onto Main too. Story after success story has followed my travels thus far. Tonight I will arrive in the “transit Mecca”, Portland, Oregon. I have talked with mayors, transit officials, planners, engineers, construction superintendants, manufacturers, train operators, and riders. There’s more to come, and possibly an exciting surprise for Oklahoma City.
Mayor Cornett once commented, “We surely don’t want a tourist ride.” I agree. This has to be a real and purposeful transit system. But a trip on Tacoma’s streetcar had every child onboard glowing and a few adults too.
A reader posed the following question to me today:
“Why is the city intent on buying all the land in Core to Shore with price not being an obstacle on any transaction, yet they feel they need to go cheap on the one project that will make Core to Shore special?”"
I was hoping that this refrain, one I heard a lot from a respected downtown observer back in the 1990s, would finally be put to rest. Back then, the city had a public works director who was repulsed by the idea of putting additional money into infrastructure to go beyond function – to actually give a damn about our city’s appearance.
It looks like there are plenty of chefs in the kitchen who messed with the recipe for the Skydance bridge. We’re told a slew of things went wrong on the budget. We’re told if there were just more time, we might have found a way to still do the design as originally intended. (Read here)
Wow. Really? We can’t take more time? Because why? Because ODOT always makes its deadlines? Seriously?
“Better than crappy makes us happy …”
I’m not so sure the populace is happy any longer with this arrangement. If you want to communicate your feelings, the man in charge is Mayor Mick Cornett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just some random shots….