What Makes a Great City
Hundreds of photo illustrations, good writing, and nice organization make What Makes a Great City a perfect volume to add to the libraries of city planners, architects, local politicians, and civic leaders. Author Alexander Garvin is a professor of architecture who spent years researching what makes a great city instead of an ordinary city. He traveled extensively to visit many cities of the Western World and North America and selected scores of them to focus on. He includes some historic photos of many cities to compare them then and now, as well as sketch maps for readers’ orientation. His focus within cities is often the gathering places: pedestrian promenades, squares, and parks–essential elements that bring cities into the “great” category. He describes numerous examples with photo illustrations where city planners were successful in their dreams to alter places from drab to glamorous. Garvin lays out several principles that are criteria for a great city. One example is Bilbao, Spain, which had a steadily declining economy until the famous Guggenheim museum was built. Garvin concentrated his study on major cities only. His chapter-by-chapter notes make this an academic volume rather than a book for the average reader.