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Philippe Claeys, Natacha Brion & Bas Smets: Before the flood

Tuesday, 29 October, 2019 - 18:00
Auditorium, Wiels
Van Volxemlaan 354, 1190 Vorst
Redelijk Eigenzinnig/Reason and Engage
Evening Lecture

Redelijk Eigenzinnig / Reason and Engage (VUB) is an interdisciplinary course for students and a series of lectures and activities open to all. The fifth edition (2019-2020) focuses on climate action, citizen protests and climate transition. In this lecture Philippe Claeys, Natacha Brion and Bas Smets give a historical and geographical perspective on water in Brussels. Prior to the lecture, a swamp walk to the Zenne Garden is organised (in Dutch).


Since historical times, riversides are preferential settlement places for human activities, ultimately leading to the development of cities. These activities profoundly modify natural water circulation as well as water quality, resulting in flooding and pollution. An extreme example of a strongly modified river system is the river Zenne crossing the city of Brussels. In this lecture Natacha Brion, Philippe Claeys and Bas Smets prove that trying to dominate nature finally turns against its user. Moreover, their collaboration shows us that nature in itself carries numerous possible solutions for a more efficient and sustainable water management in Brussels.

18:00: Lecture by Philippe Claeys and Natacha Brion

19:00: Lecture by Bas Smets

19:30: Q&A


Philippe Claeys is a geologist, planetary scientist and geochemist interested in documenting global changes and in particular the consequences of asteroid and comet impacts on the evolution of the bio-geosphere. He obtained his PhD in 1993 from the University of California at Davis working on the discovery of the Chicxulub crater in Yucatan, the most likely cause of the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago. Since 2001, he is a professor at the VUB, where he heads the research unit Analytical, Environmental and Geochemistry. When he is not travelling looking for clues to better understand the 4.5 billion years of evolution of planet Earth, he enjoys working in the lab on a wide variety of projects ranging from Antarctic meteorites to urban water management.

Natacha Brion is a senior scientist at VUB, working in the field of biogeochemistry in aquatic systems. Her major research topic are nutrients in water ecosystems such as lakes, ponds, rivers, estuaries and coastal seas but also artificial systems such as canals, sewers, and wastewater treatment plants. Interesting places under study vary a lot and include Tanganyika Lake, The Seine catchment from rivers to estuary (France), The Scheldt estuary (Belgium and the Netherlands), The Zenne river and catchment (Belgium), the sewers of Paris, the wastewater treatment plants of Paris and Brussels etc.

Bas Smets has a background in landscape architecture, civil engineering and architecture. He founded his office in Brussels in 2007 and has since constructed projects in more than 12 countries. These projects vary in scale from territorial visions to infrastructural landscapes, from large parks to private gardens, from city centres to film sets. Each project is part of an encompassing research into the possible roles of landscape projects in a changing climate. Artistic and scientific research take a central role in this endeavour. Bas Smets has worked with artists such as Philippe Parreno and Sophie Calle, and with many universities and research centers, among which also VUB.  His projects include the 10-hectare park of Thurn & Taxis in Brussels, the Himara Waterfront in Albania, the landscape along the new motorway between the ports of Antwerp and Zeebruges, and the memorial for the victims of the terror attacks in Brussels of 22/3.




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