Message from the Organising Committee


       Hans De Backer                              Bert Hesselink


The Organising Committee is pleased to announce that the IABSE Congress Ghent 2021 will be held from 22 to 24 September 2021. The International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE) is a scientific / technical association with members including renowned and top-level engineers in more than 100 countries. 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 Congress will be an excellent forum to discuss the latest innovations on structural and bridge engineering, especially regarding the future needs of society. Scientists, students, designers, contractors, owners and experts from international organisations around the world are given the opportunity to share their latest experiences. In addition to the congress, plenty of technical and social events are organised in order to expand your knowledge and network. All of this is organised with the historical city centre of Ghent as the background.


The past few months, everybody worldwide has been faced with the Covid-19 pandemic and has had to adapt accordingly. We hope everyone has managed to remain safe and has found a way to live in this new world that has arrived overnight. It has been a true challenge for everyone and we fear that it will keep influencing all our lives for the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, 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 next year. Since we still have some time, we will prepare for a combination of a classical conference and an online format . Regardless of what the situation will be next year, we will try our best to organise a great IABSE event in different formats for participants to choose from to ensure their safety. Our online part will include live-streaming all sessions and will allow attendees and speakers to participate from home as well as on-site.

Because of this, we will also offer “online-only” registration at greatly reduced fee. Furthermore, abstract deadlines will be postponed till October 15, 2020, to allow everybody to participate, based on this new information. We will allow participants to decide whether they attend online or on-site as late as possible.
The past few months have been terrible times, requiring everybody to change their ways. However, we do hope that Corona will not be the end of the conference experience we all know and like. It will require changes, some parts of the conference will shift online to limit travelling, but we intend to make sure that our organisation online as well as on-site remains a true IABSE event, allowing everybody to participate, network, meet other people, etc.
We will keep you informed with further details as they become clear. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the organisers.


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



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
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 Programme

A social programme will be organised for all Congress delegates and accompanying persons, including the Welcome Reception (included in the registration fee) and the Gala Dinner. An accompanying person's programme will be organised.


Bird view of the city of Ghent