Alexander Garvin, the author of two Island Press books, died at the close of 2021. His love of cities and optimism about what they could be, did not seem to be diminished by working on some of the most complex urban projects. What Makes a Great City developed from his two-year expedition to answer that question after he was asked by a friend. He took an answer as basic as “people are what make a city great” and turned it into a beautiful, interesting exploration of the value of an inviting, vibrant public realm. After publication, he cheerfully (for the most part) defended his choices of great cities. Alex wrote that the work reinforced what he already believed: “that a great city, unlike a great painting or sculpture, is not an exquisite, completed artifact.” He will be missed.

Read the preface to What Makes a Great City here or below.