Project Description


Urban design research is a means to understand the most pressing challenges in the contemporary built environment. Contemporary urban development demands not only innovative thinking, but also highly skilled professionals. As the world continues to urbanize, the stress on natural resources rises exponentially; global warming is exacerbating a pending ecological crisis. Spatial, social and environmental injustices prevail. Context-embedded urban design and its interplay with visionary environmental planning is necessary to address the precarious stage of development in which humanity, and more importantly the world, now finds itself.

The Belgium field school in urban design and environmental planning is grounded in the belief in both state-of-the-art design thinking and practices (including innovation from the disciplines of engineering, transportation, and ecology) and local intelligence of places as expressed in specific appropriation of techniques and relation to socio-cultural practices. The field school will take place in three different sites across the mid-Belgium Plateau, where a rich variety of forest urbanism conditions occur.

Students will learn how to derive an understanding of specific, socio-cultural, ecological and political conditions through a combination of literature review, field work and live exchanges with stakeholders. As a learning-by-doing laboratory, this field school builds capacity in urban design and environmental planning for the broad field of challenges that contemporary landscapes and urbanism are facing. It will be a catalyst for rethinking the regions’ fundamental culture-nature relationship and how various stakeholders can reimagine future relationships of forests and urbanism while finding new ways to cooperate.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: June 3 ­­– July 2, 2022

  • Enrollment Status: Closed

  • Tuition: $5,900

  • Course Type: Urban design and environmental planning, environmental studies

  • Payment Deadline: April 15, 2022

  • Instructors: Prof. Kelly Shannon & Prof. Bruno De Meulder

  • Orientation: TBA
  • Academic Credit: 8 Semester Credit Units (equivalent to 12 Quarter Units)


The directors welcome emails and inquiries about the research elements of this project. More general information (tuition, health insurance, and payment schedule) can be found under the ‘Students’ tab above. Any further questions may be addressed to IFR staff. Additional details about research, course schedule, travel, accommodation, and safety can be found on the syllabus. Contacting the directors or the IFR office is encouraged and appreciated. It may help you determine if this field school is a good fit for you.

Prof. Kelly Shannon
Prof. Kelly Shannon
Prof. Shannon is the Program Director of Postgraduate Masters in Human Settlements and Masters of Urbanism & Strategic Planning at the University of Leuven, Belgium
Prof. Bruno De Meulder
Prof. Bruno De Meulder
Prof. De Meulder is the vice-chair of the Department of Architecture and also the Program Coordinator of the Postgraduate Masters in Human Settlements and Masters of Urbanism & Strategic Planning at the University of Leuven, Belgium


This is a new IFR field school. No student testimonials are available at this time.

Tuition Includes:

  • Cost of Instruction
  • Cost of Academic Credit Units
  • Room & Board
  • All Local Transportation
  • Health & Evacuation Insurance

Student Fees

This program requires an online application — there is a $25 fee to submit an application. Once admitted, a payment of the nonrefundable deposit fee is required to secure a place in the program(s). The Tuition balance (total program cost minus the deposit fee) must be paid prior to the Tuition deadline as listed above under “Course Details.” A $100 late fee will be added to all accounts not paid in full by the Tuition deadline.

Deposit: A nonrefundable $500 deposit fee is required to secure a seat in the program. This deposit is part of the total Tuition and NOT in addition to it.

Withdrawal & Cancellation Policy: If you paid the deposit fee but did not cancel your participation by the Tuition payment deadline, you are legally responsible for the full Tuition regardless of attendance at any IFR program. Please carefully read our Withdrawal & Cancellation Policy for further information. In the event that IFR must cancel a field school, all accepted students will be notified as soon as possible and will receive a refund of all tuition paid including the deposit fee. IFR offers students the opportunity to transfer to another field school, permitting that there are spots available and the program director approves the student to participate in their field school. Upon approval of the program director, IFR staff will make the arrangements to transfer the student’s application and payments.

Credit Card Processing Fee: A 3.5% processing fee is automatically incurred for all credit/debit card/online payments.

Academic Credit Opt Out: Students who wish to participate in an IFR field school without earning academic credit units may do so and receive the following discounts: $300 off a full program (4 or more weeks in length) or $200 off a short program (2-3 weeks in length).

Trip Cancellation Insurance: Please consider purchasing a travel interruption insurance policy that will cover your travel cost and the cost of the IFR program once you make a commitment to attend a field school.

The added risk of COVID-19  should be a “covered event” in your policy.
Please note that the cost of coverage varies, based on your age, the program duration and geographical location.
You may get help and advice from your insurance broker and we offer the links below to help you educate yourself on these insurance products.
Travel Insured International offers coverage for Trip Cancellation or Interruption for Any Reason (review coverage based on your state).
– Compare quotes from different companies offering Trip Cancelation insurance plans.


There will be three sites of accommodation: 1) in Leuven, a thriving university town (either in a university residence or youth hostel for nine nights in the beginning of the summer field school and 6 nights at the end of the program. There will be single-occupancy rooms (with shared bathrooms and toilets) of the KU Leuven; 2) in a youth hostel or local hotel in the two sites of the Dender Valley (each for 7 nights).

We will arrange for food. In Leuven, breakfast can be prepared in the shared kitchen of the dorm. For lunch we will organize sandwiches and for dinner students will have a meal plan with the university. For the Dender Valley stays, the youth hostels will be responsible for our food: they are used to hosting national and international guests. Both the university and youth hostel accommodations can tailor specific dietary needs (e.g., vegetarian and vegan options, lactose intolerance, and religion-based diets (kosher/halal/etc.). Both also work with the evolving food security and regulations of the Flemish region and Belgian state.

All participants in a field school, students and staff, will wear masks while indoors (i.e., during lectures, during labs, in shared residential spaces, etc.).

Regular hand washing will be a part of the project’s daily schedule.

Travel Info

Due to ongoing uncertainties regarding the travel regulations related to COVID-19, IFR will assess the local conditions closer to the travel date (5–6 weeks prior to the program beginning) and will make Go/No Go decisions then. You are required to participate in the mandatory orientation meeting when we will discuss the latest travel information and regulations. We also suggest you consider postponing the purchase of your airline ticket until after the program orientation.

We will meet participants at the “Café Sport” (Martelarenplein 13, 3000, Leuven, Belgium) just across from the Leuven Train Station at 10am on June 3rd and provide transport by mini-van to the youth hostel.

It is advised to periodically check the following websites to learn up-to-date information about requirements and restrictions for travelers to Belgium:

A summary of current (February 2022) travel requirements are below:

  • S. residents may travel from the United States to Belgium without an Essential Travel Certificate and without any prior COVID-19 testing if they can present a valid vaccination certificate.
  • All travelers coming to Belgium by air or boat from anywhere, or by train or bus from a country outside the EU, whatever their residency status, are required to complete the Passenger Locator Format the earliest 48 hours prior to arrival in Belgium.

If you missed your connection or your flight is delayed, please call, text or email the field school director immediately. A local emergency mobile phone number will be provided to all enrolled students.


Students are responsible for obtaining a Belgian VISITOR Visa prior to arrival. This can most easily be done online ( Please note that you must have a US Passport issued within the last 10 years and with validity that exceeds the intended stay of the applicant by at least three months. Please make sure that your passport has at least two blank pages facing each other where visa and stamps may be affixed.

Citizens of other countries are asked to check the embassy website page at their home country for specific visa requirements.

Student Safety

The IFR primary concern is with education. Traveling and conducting field research involve risk. Students interested in participating in IFR programs must weigh whether the potential risk is worth the value of education provided. While risk is inherent in everything we do, we do not take risk lightly. The IFR engages in intensive review of each field school location prior to approval. Once a program is accepted, the IFR reviews each program annually to make sure it complies with all our standards and policies, including student safety.

Students attending IFR international programs are covered by a comprehensive Health Insurance policy that includes physical illness or injury, mental or chronic conditions. No deductible and 100% of costs are covered up to $250,000. In addition, we provide Political and Natural Disaster Evacuation policy, which allow us to remove students from field school location if local conditions change. Our field school directors are scholars that know field school locations and cultures well and are plugged in into local communities and state institution structures.

Students attending IFR domestic programs (within the US) must have their own health insurance and provide proof upon enrollment. IFR field school directors are familiar with local authorities and if in need of evacuation, local emergency services and/or law enforcement will be notified and activated.

The IFR has strong, explicit and robust policy towards discrimination and harassment in the field. If students feel they cannot discuss personal safety issues with field school staff, the IFR operates an emergency hotline where students may contact IFR personnel directly.

Call us at 877-839-4374 or email us at if you have questions about the safety of any particular program.