17 Mar - 2 April 2018


CREATING UTOPIA CONFERENCE proudly sponsored by Deakin University 22-25 March 2018


Creating Utopia: Imagining and Making Futures
Art, Architecture and Sustainability

Conference Keynote Speakers

Mona Doctor- Pingel

Ray Green

Invited Speakers

N’Arweet Carolyn Briggs
Greg Burgess
Leire Asensio and David Mah
Esther Charlesworth
John Fien
Alecia Bellgrove
Janet Laurence
Shoso Shimbo

Bio Notes

Keynote Speakers


Mona Doctor- Pingel

Mona Doctor- Pingel

Title: Journeying to Oneness through architecture in Auroville, South India.
Uncovering several aspects of my professional and personal life in regard to nature and built landscapes in Auroville: a unique city of Human Unity. Auroville is devoted to discovering a philosophical understanding of Society in Change, including the values of honesty and integrity and responding positively to the sense of collapse all around.

Mona Doctor-Pingel is an architect based in Auroville, South Inida, since 1995. She studied architecture at the Center for Environment and Planning (CEPT), Ahmedabad, and has a master’s degree in Appropriate Technology from Flensburg University, Germany .
Her Studio Naqshbandi experiments with various building technologies using local materials and craftsmen which incorporate principles of Building Biology. She has been actively involved in different planning bodies of Auroville and in teaching at various schools of architecture in India and Germany. Currently she is also part of the five year Indo-US joint research on Building Energy Efficiency. She is the author of a monograph on Poppo Pingel, which forms a part of the series of monographs on the pioneering architects of Auroville.

Invited Speakers


N’Arweet Carolyn Briggs
Carolyn Briggs is a Boon Wurrung senior elder and the chairperson and founder of the Boon Wurrung Foundation. A descendant of the First Peoples of Melbourne, the Yaluk-ut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung, Carolyn is the great-granddaughter of Louisa Briggs, a Boon Wurrung woman born near Melbourne in the 1830’s.

In 2005, Carolyn established the Boon Wurrung Foundation, which has conducted significant work in cultural research including the restoration of the Boon Wurrung language and the promotion and maintenance of Boon Wurrung culture and heritage. The foundation also helps connect Aboriginal youth to their heritage.

Carolyn has worked across numerous communities for over forty years and is currently completing her doctorate in philosophy researching assisting urban Indigenous youth to understand Indigenous knowledge.

Her cultural knowledge and experience has been recognised by communities throughout Australia. Carolyn was awarded the National Aboriginal Elder of the Year in 2011 by the National NAIDOC Committee; was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2005; was entered into the 2012 and 2013 “Who’s Who Australia”; was appointed an Elder in Residence at RMIT University 2017; and she was inducted into the 2017 Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll.

Carolyn Briggs is the author of “Journey Cycles of the Boon Wurrung: Stories with Boonwurrung Language”.



Dr. Greg Burgess

Since 1972 Gregory Burgess has been the principal designer for Gregory Burgess Architects, with an emphasis on architecture as a social, healing and ecological art. His international reputation has been established through a body of work including housing, community, cultural (including indigenous), educational, health, religious, commercial, exhibition design and urban design projects.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the national Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Buildings, the Victorian Architecture Medal for the best building of the year, the Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal for distinguished service by an Australian architect, the Robert Mathew Award for outstanding contributions to the development of architecture in the Commonwealth, and the international Kenneth F Brown Asia Pacific Culture and Architectural Design Award.

He has taught and lectured at many Australian and international universities and his work has been exhibited at major galleries and museums locally and in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Shanghai, Bombay, Edinburgh, the Middle East, and America. It has been widely published in books and journals, including most major international architectural journals.
Gregory Burgess was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Architecture, University of Melbourne acknowledging his significant artistic, social, environmental and intellectual contribution and Life Fellowship of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 2005.
He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday 2011 Honours List, for his service to architecture in the area of environmentally sensitive building design, and to the community.

mah and villoria

David Mah and Leire Asensio Villoria

David Mah

David Mah is a senior lecturer in urban design and architecture at the University of Melbourne’s
school of design. Previous to the MSD, David was a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (2010-2017). While at the GSD, David was also design research lead for the Health and
Places Initiative, a research collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health focused on studying the links between the built environment and health outcomes. Previous to Harvard, he also taught design and theory at Cornell University’s department of architecture (2007-2010) and Landscape Urbanism at the graduate design school of the Architectural Association in London (2004- 2007). Together with Leire Asensio Villoria, David is author of the book: Lifestyled: Health and Places (2016, Jovis). His writings have been published in a number of academic as well as professional books and journals.Together with Leire Asensio Villoria, David is also active in the production of architectural and creative works since 2002. His works have been exhibited internationally including at the Royal Academy of Art in London and The Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York and has been featured in professional books and journals published by Birkhauser, Evolo, Lars Muller, Actar and Routledge amongst others.


Leire Asensio Villoria
Leire is a registered architect in Spain that received her Diploma in Architecture awarded with honours from the Architectural Association in 2001. Since 2002, Leire has been collaborating with David Syn Chee Mah as asensio_mah. Her works have been exhibited internationally including at the Royal Academy of Art in London and The Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York and has been featured in professional books and journals published by Birkhauser, Evolo, Lars Muller and Actar amongst others. Leire is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s School of Design. Previous to the MSD, Leire was a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. While at the GSD, Leire was also design research lead for the Health and Places Initiative, a research collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She was also codirector of the WTEdLab whose research has lead to the recent publication Architecture and Waste. A(Re)planned Obsolescence by Actar. Previous to Harvard, she also taught design and theory at Cornell University’s department of architecture and Landscape Urbanism at the graduate design school of the Architectural Association in London.
Together with David Mah, Leire is author of the book: Lifestyled: Health and Places (2016, Jovis)


Esther Charlesworth

Esther Charlesworth is a Professor in the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT University, and the Academic Director of the new RMIT Master of Disaster, Design and Development degree [MoDDD]. She is also the founding Director of Architects without Frontiers (AWF). Since 2002, AWF has undertaken over 42 health, education and social infrastructure projects in 12 countries for vulnerable communities, and has been described by ABC radio broadcaster Phillip Adams as ‘destined to develop into one of the greater forces of good on this battered planet’.

Charlesworth has worked in the public and private sectors of architecture and urban design in Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Boston and Beirut since graduating with a Masters in Architecture and Urban from Harvard University in 1995. In 2004 she was awarded her PhD from the University of York (UK). She has published seven books on the theme of social justice and architecture, including: ‘Humanitarian Architecture’ (2014) and ‘Sustainable Housing Reconstruction’ (2015).


John Fien

Professor John Fien is Professor of Sustainability in the Innovation Leadership programme of RMIT University, where he is responsible for supporting research on social, environmental and economic sustainability across the Business and Design and Social Context Portfolios. An interdisciplinary background in education and training, natural resource management, public participation and sustainable consumption equip him to work across this broad sustainability agenda and to develop partnerships of university research teams, business and industry, government, NGOs, schools and communities.
John Fien is currently a Professor at RMIT University where he is responsible for facilitating the development of teaching and research to further the social change processes that underlie sustainable development.
A member of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO, John was a resource person for UNEP and UNESCO in Education for Sustainable Development at the Commission for Sustainable Development in New York and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. In addition, John was the Director of the Young People and the Environment project that analyzed the environmental knowledge and values of young people in the Asia-Pacific region. He has also contributed to a number of publications in the field of Education for Sustainable Development and has been a co-editor on IUCN and UNESCO publications. John also wrote and designed the UNESCO multimedia teacher education program, “Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future”.
His work in the values and action outcomes of education have led to projects on sustainable consumption education for OECD, conservation education for WWF-International and WWF-USA, and sustainable development education for the University of Peace.

janet laurence

Janet Laurence
Janet Laurence is a Sydney-based Australian artist who exhibits nationally and internationally. Her practice examines our physical, cultural and conflicting relationship to the natural world. She creates immersive environments that navigate the interconnections between organic elements and systems of nature. Within the recognised threat to so much of the life world, she explores what it might mean to heal, albeit metaphorically, the natural environment, fusing this with a sense of communal loss and search for connection with powerful life-forces.
Her work is included in museum, university, corporate and private collections as well as within architectural and landscaped public places.
Laurence has been a recipient of Rockefeller, Churchill and Australia Council fellowships; recipient of the Alumni Award for Arts, UNSW; and is currently visiting fellow at the NSW University Art and Design;
Australian representative for the COP21/FIAC, Artists 4 Paris Climate 2015 exhibition; visiting fellow of the 2016/2017 Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK) foundation fellowship; and artist in residence at the Australian Museum.
Her work Matter of the Masters is showing now in AGNSW in association with the Rembrandt and Dutch Masters show

ray green

Ray Green

Ray Green is a professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of Melbourne. His research is multidisciplinary in nature and concerned with environment-behaviour issues related to land development and conservation, climate change and the health benefits associated with human contact with nature in urban settings. Prior to focusing on research he spent 12 years in landscape architectural and planning practice, undertaking numerous projects in the United States, Mexico, South East Asia and Australia. He is the author of the book Coastal Towns in Transition: Local Perceptions of Landscape Change (2010) and co-author of Towards Low Carbon Cities in China (2015), The Green City: Sustainable Homes, Sustainable Suburbs (2005) and Design for Change (1985). His work has also appeared in various landscape architecture, architecture, urban planning and environmental psychology journals.”


Alecia Bellgrove

Alecia Bellgrove is a Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology and Ecology with Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University’s Warrnambool campus, Dr Bellgrove is a marine ecologist with both botanical and zoological training. Her research focuses on the role of habitat-forming seaweeds in ecological systems, their life history dynamics and the impacts of anthropogenic disturbances such as sewage effluent and climate change. After completing her PhD, Dr Bellgrove spent three years in post-doctoral research at the University of Tsukuba’s Shimoda Marine Research Centre in Japan, investigating the dispersal stages of seaweeds and the basic biology behind their complex lifestyles.

A self-confessed “foodie,” in recent years Dr Bellgrove has used her knowledge of the biology and ecology of seaweeds to explore the potential of south-eastern Australia’s unique and diverse temperate marine flora as delicious and nutritious food. In 2013, she led a crowdfunding project, “Would you like seaweed with that?” to raise funds for a research project to compare the taste of Victorian seaweeds with seaweed from other parts of the world. The results showed Australian seaweeds tested positively from both nutritional and taste perspectives. Her work takes place in some of the most beautiful, and most foul, places on earth – from rocky reefs to sewage outlets – in the lab, and in her own kitchen with her family as test subjects.

Dr Bellgrove recently shared her insights with Professor Tim Flannery on an episode of ABC TV’s “Catalyst” program, “Can seaweed save the world?”



Shoso Shimbo

Shoso Shimbo PhD is a certified teacher of Ikebana and has 30 years experience in Ikebana. Shoso was selected by Belle magazine as one of six “Australia’s top floral designers” and has won multiple awards including the Gold Award at the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show. His works were selected for the prestigious publication, International Floral Art (Stichting Kunstboek) in 2014/2015 & 2016/2017 editions. His sculptural works have been featured in some of the nation’s major contemporary art exhibitions. His recent commissions includes a public work of art for the Archibald Award Exhibition 2015 at the Art Gallery of Ballarat and the Wye River project as a part of the Lorne Sculpture 2016.
Shoso has an MA in Japanese Studies, a Master of Fine Art and PhD in Education. He is also qualified as a garden designer. He is a directer of International Society of Ikebana Studies and he teaches “Japanese Aesthetics: From Ikebana to Contemporary Art” at RMIT University Short Courses.