I use the term renovation over pruning when referring to a job that initially looks pretty drastic rather than just a few cuts to improve the shape of a tree or shrub.
My first experience with such a task was when I interned at Filoli Center. We took the large laurel hedge back to "sticks" in the cutting garden. There were few leaves left to speak of. As far as my job satisfaction was concerned, I didn't feel like I accomplished much. Accodring to my eyes and what I learned about pruning in my studies, it was ugly. But, like a house renovation, there needs to be some "gutting" before the final vision is realized. I returned a year later once the new growth flushed out and saw what we did resulted in a well-controlled formal hedge.
Now, this is similar to what I had to do with my fig tree in the front yard this fall. I dreaded it--avoided it--especially with a possibly of an audience. There is no where to hide when I'm working out there. And since I'm also a professional gardener, I wonder what people think as they watch what I'm doing; fearing they're calling Plant Amnesty on me. But I knew if I did nothing, it would only be a bigger problem later on.
Last year, I had a couple of friends help me take it back a few feet. They are tree pruning professionals (arborsists) and could reach the branches better than I could with my eight-foot ladder. They could had taken more out, but I didn't blame them for being cautious.
Two afternoons later and three full large green waste cans later, I have a more manageable tree. I don't recommend this type of pruning for any tree. I know fig trees can take a hard pruning. I probably sacrificed next summer's fig crop, but I think the tree will be better for it overall. Plus, maybe with less fruit to pick from, it will fall off the starlings' radar. One can only hope!