Can you describe what you do?
I’m a full-time lecturer at the Engineering Technology Faculty of KU Leuven, with a passion for renewable energy, energy transition and education methodologies. These interests are also recognizable in my daily activities: as a citizen of Leuven I want to share my experiences and knowledge with the Leuven 2030 project, and be an active member. I also started CORE, a student co-operative where master’s students engage in energy efficiency projects within a professional context, supported by a network of specialised partners. At the moment, I’m also initiating LICHT Leuven, a group of motivated companies and citizens seeking to facilitate energy transitions in Leuven.
I wasn’t born in Leuven, but I did stay on after my studies, developing a tight bond with the city. I live around the harbour, close to the Keizersberg Abbey – a very dynamic and fast-changing area. When I’m not teaching, you’ll often find me in STUKcafé or Noir Coffeebar, where I always encounter interesting people or carry out informal meetings.
How do you perceive Leuven? In your view, what kind of city is it?
In my opinion, Leuven is a small city, but with a very rich history. It has the ideal mix of generous and personal village life, combined with the dynamic and diverse atmosphere of a big city. The unique relationship of the city with the University distinguishes Leuven from other similarly-sized cities, giving it a vibrant atmosphere. This is promoted by the historical integration of the higher education facilities in the city centre, and the 40,000-strong student population residing in the city during the academic year.
The presence of the Dyle in the city is unique: without this river, Leuven would probably have never existed in the first place.
What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?
Its rich, historical background, which is very prominently present. Leuven still hosts the jaarmarkt, a yearly market where farmers and local traders from the Flemish-Brabant Region present their goods on the city streets. Held throughout the day and early evening, this is accompanied by festivities where you can see and meet the full diversity of Leuven’s population. The City also hosts some old-timer cafés and unique establishments, bars and quality shops – but there’s also the unfortunate reality that many have already disappeared, or are struggling to survive. That’s a pity because I feel they add a certain typically authentic characteristic to the cityscape. Also, the presence of the Dyle in the city is unique: without this river, Leuven would probably have never existed in the first place. It’s the source of Leuven’s rich past as a trading city, and allowed for the presence of its then numerous breweries. It also shows another face, with its numerous water structures, and backside views of gardens and houses built on the riverbanks.
How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
The multicultural character of Leuven, KU Leuven and Imec, where I first started working, influenced and defined my vision on the world. It also triggered my interests in traveling, experiencing and exploring other cultures. It changed my view on people in general, or at least taught me to put things into perspective. And it’s probably one of the main reasons why I decided to put so much effort into CORE, Leuven 2030 and LICHT Leuven.
Leuven is known for its many high-tech companies and university, but it would also be great if its citizens demonstrated the same drive for innovation, creativity and technology in shaping and planning the city.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?
More trees, and greener urban spaces in general! Leuven is far too “clean” looking – even the few bushes and trees we have already are meticulously trimmed or shaped into lollipops. It looks quite silly compared to the large trees found on avenues in typical French villages and cities. Plants should be allowed to grow more freely. And public squares are not only architectural “urban landscapes”, but should also be inviting and user-friendly. Leuven is known for its many high-tech companies and university, but it would also be great if its citizens demonstrated the same drive for innovation, creativity and technology in shaping and planning the city.
If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?
No trips to beer or university museums, because that’s still missing! There are plenty of other opportunities though when spending the weekend here in Leuven. I would start by going to the local vegetable market in Brusselsestraat on a Saturday morning. After passing by the old Town Hall, I would propose grabbing a coffee and piece of cake in Noir Coffeebar. I would also plan a tour through the city centre along its historical places, neighbourhoods and buildings. Furthermore, new developments like Vaartkom, Janseniushof and others are not to be missed. The weekend can be concluded with a drink and free jazz performance chez STUK.lichtleuven.be thinkcore.be