Message from the Organising Committee


       Hans De Backer                              Bert Hesselink


The Organising Committee is pleased to confirm that the IABSE Congress Ghent 2021 will be held from 22 to 24 September 2021. The Congress is organised by the Belgian and Dutch Groups of IABSE in co-operation with Ghent University. This congress will be the first international IABSE event hosted in the BENELUX since the successful IABSE Conference 2013 in Rotterdam. The Congress will be held in the buildings of ICC Ghent. The International Convention Centre is a highly facilitated Congress venue where durability is of great importance. 


The past year, everybody worldwide has been faced with the Covid-19 pandemic and has had to adapt accordingly. These have been terrible times, requiring everybody to change their ways. However, the troubles of conference organisers are actually quite minor to what most people have had to endure. Still, things are looking up with the arrival of vaccines, so the organisers feels sure that the IABSE Congress Ghent will be the first large on-site event after the pandemic.


During this difficult period, as organisers of the IABSE Congress Ghent 2021, we have decided to follow the unofficial motto of our city, which goes somewhat like “Do not complain, never give up”. So, we decided to stick to our original conference dates and to guarantee to all of our participants that the Congress will take place. Since not everybody will be able to travel yet, we will organise a hybrid format, allowing participants, unable to travel to Ghent, to attend from home and interact in all on site events.


The organisation has had to continuously adapt to the situation, but we now hope that our Congress will be a festive conclusion of this difficult period and the start of a new period of IABSE events, where we are once again able to participate, network, meet other people in person.


We invite all of you to the heart of Europe to experience another great IABSE event.


Hans De Backer, Organising Committee Chair, Belgium

Bert Hesselink, Organising Committee Vice-Chair, The Netherlands


Current Covid-19 situation in Ghent

14 April, 2021: Now that the peak of the third Covid-19 wave is behind us, Belgium is slowly moving back to normal. A detailed trajectory has been approved by our governments, which include the opening of restaurants and bars on the 8th of May. At the moment, International travel is once again allowed and large scale gatherings such as conferences are expected to restart in June. We are getting more and more confirmation from all partners that an onsite event will perfectly be possible in september. There might some remaining rules, such as only using 50% of the seats in the conference rooms, but we are planning for all contingencies..

About The Organisers

The Belgian and Dutch Groups of IABSE together with Ghent Universtiy are organising the IABSE Congress Ghent 2021. The Organising Committee (OC) is chaired by Hans de Backer and includes 10 dedicated members.




Hans De Backer

Chair Organising Committee
Ghent University
Department of Civil Engineering
Technologiepark 60
B-9052 Zwijnaarde




Organising Committee

Hans De Backer (Chair)
Bert Hesselink (Vice-Chair)
Ane de Boer
Bart De Pauw
Alain Dumortier
Bernard Espion
Pierre Mengeot
Bert Snijder
Sven Somers
Aad van der Horst
Gilles Van Staen


It can’t be a coincidence that Ghent, the capital of East Flanders, was given several pretty names: medieval Manhattan, historical heart of Flanders, a city of all times, one of the most beautiful historical cities in Europe. According to National Geographic Traveler, Ghent is “the most authentic historic city in the World“. And Lonely Planet called Ghent “Europe’s best kept secret”. The city combines an impressive past with a vivid present. You will hardly ever find such a diversity of architectural styles and treasures of which most are protected as national heritage by UNESCO. Strolling through Ghent often coincides with an adventurous travel through history. But above all, Ghent is alive! Here pounds the young heart of a dazzling city of culture with music, theatre, film and visual arts. A city where cultural perspectives are constantly renewed and enlarged, where culture is a feast and where feasting is a form of culture. Not only art lovers but nearly everyone can find something here to suit his taste. Ghent offers over 500 restaurants, numerous pubs, pleasant shopping streets and an exciting nightlife.


De Crook City Library


Getting Here

Ghent is centrally located in Europe, at the crossroads of highways between Amsterdam, Paris, London, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. The city is easily accessible by car, by train and by air.


By car

Ghent is situated at the intersection of two major European highways, the E17 connects Northern Europe with the Southern countries, and the E40 goes from the North Sea up to Eastern Europe.


By train

Ghent is easily accessible from all Belgian and European cities and only half an hour away from Brussels Midi Station. Thanks to the high-speed trains, Eurostar, Thalys and ICE, Ghent is only two hours away from Paris and less than three hours from London, Amsterdam and Cologne.


By air

Ghent is only 45 minutes away from Brussels Airport, which has flights from over 70 international destinations, operated by more than 140 international and regional airline companies. The other Belgian airports (Ostend, Antwerp, Liège and Charleroi) serve several European destinations and have easy and direct connections to Ghent.


About the Venue

Gent ICC, Ghent’s convention centre, was built in the 1970s by the famous Ghent architect Bontinck. Even back then, it was already one of the largest purpose-built convention centres in Belgium, thanks to the conference rooms that provided seating for 975 visitors as well as 4 breakout rooms.


Nowadays, the centre has 15 rooms, good for more than 15 000 m² of meeting space. It is located just outside the historic city centre and next to the famous museum S.M.A.K. All these elements make ICC Gent an excellent location to host the IABSE Congress Ghent 2021.


Ghent ICC

The Congress

The IABSE Congress Ghent 2021 is a large international structural engineering conference bringing together scientists, students, designers, contractors, owners and experts from international organisations around the world. The Congress serves as an important event for stimulating industry discussion, exchange of cutting-edge knowledge and networking. IABSE’s aim as a technical society is to promote the advancement of structural engineering practice while taking into account technical, economic, environmental, aesthetic and social aspects. IABSE Congresses are annual events held each September and hosted in all parts of the world. The 3-day format of the technical Congress follows 2-days of the association’s Annual Meetings. In recent years the number of delegates to the technical Congress has ranged between 550 and 1000.

Preliminary Programme

IABSE Annual Meetings

IABSE Annual Meetings

Congress Opening Ceremony
Keynote Speakers and parallel sessions
Welcome Reception
Young Engineers Event

Keynote Speakers and parallel sessions
Conference Dinner

Keynote speakers and parallel sessions
Congress Closing ceremony

Social Events

A Welcome Reception will be organised on the first day of the Congress. This reception will take place at the congress venue ICC from 6 pm until 8 pm.


The Congress Dinner is organised on Thursday 23 September. The venue is the ‘Oude Vismijn’, which is in the middle of the old city centre. The venue gives view on the most touristic places


Bird view of the city of Ghent

Accompanying Persons Programme


The Programme includes below tours and participation to the Welcome Reception, Opening Ceremony and Closing Ceremony. Total Fee: €100,-


Half-Day Tour Bruges Historic Centre
Thursday Sept 23nd ( 08:30 AM – 1:00 PM) 


Bruges is the best-known tourist hot spot of Belgium. Its success is overwhelming and during the season it may be crowded. This is due to one single 19th century novel: ‘Bruges la Morte’. Discover the reason of the attraction, the atmosphere of past and present and why not the chocolate shops. Travel by train from Gent Sint-Pietersstation (near the conference venue) to Bruges and walk through the Minnewater park, the silence of the old Beguinage, the Old Saint-John hospital from XIth century (no entrance), Market place with belfry, town hall, the view that made Bruges the tourist place it is today and walk back to the train. Those who want to stay longer can do so, since the train ticket is individual.


Bruges : Market place and belfry                                                                           Rose hat quay


Includes: walk with licensed guide with headphone comment, 1 coffee at a cosy place, individual return train ticket.
Not included: lunch, entrance to buildings (no interior visits), other food or beverages, insurance.
Requires: easy walking shoes, rain coat.


Evening Walk Historic Centre of Ghent
Tuesday Sept 21nd (08:00 PM – 10:00 PM) and Friday Sept 24th (7:00 PM-9:00 PM) 


A 2 hour walk, starting at the annual meeting’s venue ‘Het Pand’. We will admire the city through time, from its medieval and belle époque time to its present and future. We see the first university building, pass through small shopping streets and see the cathedral, the belfry, town hall with its dual character, Friday Market place and the bell tower, the castle of counts and how a new born Ghentian is announced, the old harbour and the view on the Three Towers of Ghent.



  Ghent City Hall                                                                                          Three Towers Ghent


Includes: walk with licensed guide.
Not included: entrance to buildings or monuments, drinks or food, insurance.
Requires: easy walking shoes, rain coat.

All accommodation supported by the City of Ghent are summarised on: 

When clicking on the tab ‘BOEK EEN HOTEL’, you are redirected to an overview site of all available accommodations for your preferred period.

Visa Regulation
Belgium is part of the European Schengen zone and its regulations towards Visa applications. More information can be found on: 

The IABSE OC can provide documents with proof of participation or an invitation letter once registration is succeeded.