Pluridisciplinary approach

Jack Kruf

“The main thing in Oldeman’s work is that he created a methodology made up of a whole set of perfectly articulated morphogenetic, ecological and physiological concepts allowing the structural analysis of the populations of trees … in all regions of the world.”

This quote in the introduction of the highly respected George Mangenot in the introduction of the thesis of Oldeman says it all. In the design of this new approach of diagnosing forest and what really ‘drives’ them to be what they are is truly a scientific breakthrough at the beginning of the seventies.

The pluridisciplinarity of this approach is the key to get the right picture. What makes it special is that indigenous tribes living in these forests, when seeing the transect designs, could easily point the existing niches in the ecosystem. Quite essential and proof of how Oldeman came close to reality by connecting six different approaches in one picture.

The main lesson for all managers, strategists, researchers and advisors can be derived: combine different approaches, angles and perspectives at the same time to get the right picture of the issue you are working on. ‘Pluridisciplinarity’ is the word. It is key. It is the only road.

L’essentiel, dans l’œuvre d’Oldeman, est qu’il a créé une méthodologie faite de tout un ensemble parfaitement articulé de concepts morphogénétiques, écologiques et physiologiques permettant l’analyse structurale des populations d’arbres, en majorité dicotylédoniens, dans toutes les régions du monde. Un récent essai, inédit, de l’auteur, sur une forêt du Massachusetts a montré qu’il est possible, par les méthodes éprouvées en Guyane, de l’expliquer et de comprendre les profondes différences la distinguant des forêts équatoriales,. le caractère souple et adaptable du système oldemanien est ainsi mis en évidence. George Mangenot, Professor Botanique Sorbonne University, Paris.

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

Phases (forest) architecture

All forests can be characterized by a sum of eco-units. Every unit has its own state or phase. So a forest is actually a palette, or better a mosaic, an abundant and biodiverse collection of eco-units. This mosaic is the balancing act of the. Every unit has its own state, its specific dynamics and with that its species, processes, habitats and niches. An ecosystem is not one steady state, but a collection of states.

In forest ecology the approach of diagnosis of this state is advanced and scientifically developed by Oldeman (1990). In his forest diagnosis and design of the forest he combined different sciences and approaches and brought them together in a understandable set of phases of forest architecture.

It is an assumption that also cities and within that organisations, the true components of society, follow the same patterns as forests do. Why should they not if they are considered as belonging to the earth ecosystem. That cities and organisations also have a palette of eco-units is plausible.

Oldeman elaborated the phases of architecture of innovation, aggradation, biostatis (maturity) and degradation.


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

Sets of components in system architecture

Jack Kruf

Studying the forest ecosystem and its natural laws for development and succession, it is noteworthy from the perspective of diagnosis of the state of systems, being organisations and even cities, to keep the sets of forest trees in mind, as found by Oldeman (1974a) in a diversity of forests. In the forest the main components are trees. In organisations it are people and on city level it could be organisations itself. It is the level of consideration which makes it helpful to choose.

The main sets of in this case tree in a present architectural photo are representing the past, the present and the future in one, symbolising respectively decay, determination (of mass and power) and prospect. It is this triangle that is useful and could be considered as a set of guiding principles of diagnosing systems in general.

The forest is characterized by its trees. In the first part, we examined the rules to which tree growth obeys, expressed in an architecture peculiar to each species, but whose principle can be identified in relation to some twenty tree models. These criteria make it possible to distinguish three sets of forest trees.


The whole of the future includes young trees, who, conforming to the initial model, often regenerated, 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; the whole present is subdivided into structural sets at different heights.


Forest architecture is stratified; the relative density of the trees in each set determines the good or bad visibility of “strata.” 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.

Roelof A.A. Oldeman (1974a)


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

See also