Before he turned urban planner, journalist Tim Sullivan penned a number of pieces as a freelancer for this very publication. One of his most memorable stories was “Space Invaders,” a fascinating look at urban explorers here in Salt Lake City going behind barbed wire and over brick walls to journey into the dark and dangerous world of abandoned industrial wreckage.
As opposed to the deterioration of the past, Sullivan’s new book, No Communication With the Sea: Searching for an Urban Future in the Great Basin, instead focuses on what lies ahead for this unique geography saddled between mountain ranges. Sullivan notes that not only is the West the location of the fastest-growing population in the country, but nearly everyone who calls this arid landscape home lives in an urbanized area. The trick is to get those masses that are congregated in cities like Salt Lake City and Reno thinking of positive development instead of mindless sprawl.
Sullivan discusses the difference between urbanization and urbanism—the former being the migration of huge populations to developed urban centers, the latter being smaller-scale changes to constructively deal with the effects of that urbanization. “The conditions of urbanization created by economics are alleviated by the solutions of urbanism,” Sullivan writes. “Designing densely packed houses or apartments to be livable homes, leveraging the economic activity of a city into proud public parks, bringing economics of scale down to a human scale, making busy thoroughfares enjoyable streets—it’s a kind of lemons into lemonade.”