Idealists make me somewhat nervous. I become especially nervous when it comes to city planning and when I read of someone's desire to "design a city from the ground up." Clean slate thinking can lead to awful things, if the actor is an evil genius. Or because the world is such a complex place, it can lead to frustration of the majority of us, the well-intentioned mediocrity. Only under despotic rule are societies able to make dramatic changes. To hope for dramatic change leaves one open to the lure of dictatorship.
I think a better way to look at city planning is by considering the narrative technique known as "in medias res."
In medias res is Latin for "into the middle of things." It usually describes a narrative that begins, not at the beginning of a story, but somewhere in the middle -- usually at some crucial point in the action. The term comes from the ancient Roman poet Horace, who advised the aspiring epic poet to go straight to the heart of the story instead of beginning at the beginning.and
(Latin "in the midst of things") In narrative technique, the recommended practice of beginning an epic or other fictional form by plunging into a crucial situation that is part of a related chain of events; the situation is an extension of previous events and will be developed in later action. The narrative then goes directly forward, and exposition of earlier events is supplied by flashbacks.City planning is done "in medias res." To accept that we are plunged into the middle of things, into a raging "urban narrative," moving (per Churchill) "full force irresistible," is a useful approach with cities. We do not have the "luxury" of building and designing whole cities from scratch on some systematic basis. Thank god. We'd better get used to it and work building-by-building, brick-by-brick. That's why I have always been rather put off by Burnham's urging to "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood." I would say just the opposite. Move by increments so as to avoid the demagogues and massive error. (Of course that does NOT mean that "no change is the best change." There is a happy medium with which wise Goldilocks would be happy.)
Of course building by increments is not as dramatic and exciting as starting from scratch. True. And I guess if you want urban excitement, there is always Brasilia.