One meme of a city might be "River". Most great cities are located on rivers. It makes sense evolutionarily. Early human settlements needed fresh water. Rivers were places for that, and for food. Good land locations would not be abandoned, leading to a continuous line of habitation to today's modern version. Think of Paris (Seine), London (Thames), New York (East, Hudson), Shanghai (Yangtze), Boston/Cambridge (Charles).
I think of rivers because today I saw two of them:
|Bucolic, in a 19th century way|
|De-humanizing, in a 20th century way|
River #2 Somerville, Massachusetts. Medford's neighbor just to the south is Somerville, a city of 75,000 residents. Somerville also reaches the Mystic, but the river I saw is a different one. It's the elevated concrete river called the McGrath Highway (MA Route 28), one of the Boston area's great urban planning disasters of the 20th century. At the point at which the roadway crosses over Washington Street, one enters an urban wasteland, the proverbial urban war zone. Built in the 1950s to increase traffic speed along the route, this flying river of cars also sits in stark contrast to the current thinking about cars in cities -- make the pedestrians the priority. Give it all a human scale.