In nature, ecosystems find themselves in, in fact consists of a mosaic of phases. The natural forest for example is not something of a homogeneous static, but can be defined as the sum of different phases which at the same time are present and co-exist. This mosaic make the forest to what it is in essence. Each phase is unique. 

There are three sets of phases in which trees and in the Cinetone® framework organisations can find themselves in: decay, determination (of mass and power) and prospect. Oldeman (1974a) explains:

“Forest architecture is stratified. The whole of the future includes young trees… will give structure to the future forest. The whole of the present brings together the trees having reached, by an abundant reiteration and growth in thickness, their maximum biomass and which determine the current architecture of the forest. Lastly, the whole of the past includes trees in the process of being eliminated, traces of previous structures more or less blurring the architecture of the present.”

What counts for trees in a forest ecosystem can also be applied to organisations in a city ecosystem. In the process of diagnosis it is wise to know to which phase the in public issues involved organisation belongs. 

Ant then there is on a higher system level, the groups of trees or organisations with form ecological system-units. In the forest Oldeman (1990) calls this the by him discover eco-unit as “.. the unit of vegetation which started its development at the same moment and on the same surface.”

In the Cinetone® framework eco-units can also be found around public plans, projects, issues in the city. A urban eco-units so to speak, being ’the unit of organisations which started its development at the same moment and on the same public issue.” Studying the eco-units (Oldeman, 1990), phases of eco-unit follow the analog patterns of those applicable to individual trees. As it is for organisations. Studying the architecture of eco-units results in four phase of architecture: innovation, aggradation, biostasis and degradation.

In each phase the energy, nutrient and water flows are different, as well as is its resilience, population dynamics and biodiversity. Taking note of this during the process of diagnosis is essential. Oldeman (1990) describes the four phases of the architecture in which the units of the ecosystem show themselves: 

  • Innovation: a new beginning, after a reorganisation or a fire, huge competition, new seedlings.
  • aggradation: the build-up, individuals are in development and growing, in prospect, expansion.
  • biostatis (maturity): individuals determining the rules, a balancing act, stable mature phase, rich structure, high biodiversity.
  • degradation: individual components are in decay, dying, leaving, part of the system is collapsing.

The Cinetone® framework considers the concept of the phase of organisation and (urban) eco-unit as essential. It forms one of the determinants needed for proper diagnosis and understanding of the system related to a public theme, issue, plan or project. Learning from architecture and functioning of the natural forest ecosystem is in the very heart, in the mission of our foundation.


Oldeman, R.A.A. (1974a, 2nd ed.). L’architecture de la forêt guyanaise. Mémoires ORSTOM, 73.

Oldeman, R.A.A. (1990). Forests: Elements of Silvology. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.