February 20, 2012
Teepee Activism

Bill “William Woodbridge” 

Design, Teepees, Corporations. What do they all have in common?

So on Friday night i was attending a street art exhibition organised by a few Architecture majors at the University of Canberra. If i wasn’t already consumed by the fantastic show of art and culture unravelling before my eyes, i was definitely impressed by a fellow design student from the university. 

William Woodbridge was his name and my friend introduced him to me in an ecstatic frenzy telling me "Mate you have to meet this guy, he’s protesting CLV by building a Teepee on Lake Ginninderra and inhabiting it"

Needless to say i thought it was garbage. He then quickly produced his phone and showed me a few photos of the project, i was surprised and asked if he would be kind enough to show me the structure, he agreed.

Today, I met with Bill, and we set off to his home for the past 2 weeks. (A video of his journey to and back from Work/University). Ultimately after seeing the arrangements and taking in the scenery the obvious question came around “Why?”.

I like to begin with saying that after speaking to Bill, he is not a charity case or in search for any sort of publicity. He’s taken this path out of choice but many factors have pushed him into the choice he has made today. 

So Bill was a lodger at student accomodation provided by CLV (Campus Living Villages) Australia. They are a international organisation in the business of student accomodation catering to universities. Before 2008, The university residences were run by the University itself and there were some protests from students prior to the take over of residences by CLV.

Nevertheless after CLV took over the on-campus accomodation at UC not surprisingly the prices of student accomodation increased to as much as 30 - 50%, this is not including new fees and charges which CLV felt like they had to implement. Many will think “well tough that’s life” yes, but when you consider that a university student if unreliant on parents or guardian for finances may have to work up to 30 hours a week to pay the $180 - $280p/week on rent you might understand the frustration many students have. The tipping point for Bill was unfortunately for him a fire alarm fine which he set off whilst cooking. Because of this he was hit with a $380 fine. Ultimately he chose the decision he made because he refused to live under a money orientated organisation with very little thoughts on their customers. 

As a student this left him stranded and homeless. He refused to kowtow to a large profit driven institution so he took the first step into designing a teepee. A floating teepee for that matter, where he could live rent free and not have to worry about the bureaucratic nonsense involved in living under the direction of CLV.

But it’s not just defying large corporate entities in his list of agendas, it’s also a wider argument of unsustainable living by average Australians. Bill is an environmentalist, a greens supporter and not afraid to do for what he believes in. We talked briefly on numbers and somehow we stumbled upon the population of India, i suggested it was nearing 1.1 billion. Bill corrected me and stated it’s actually 1.2 billion, the point of the conversation was that the difference when talking about the figures was figuratively small, only 0.1 of a difference but in reality I just missed out on 100,000,000 people. The logic behind this is that China and India are full throttle in terms of reaching a higher living standards, but just a simple slip of the tongue on the population is already 5 times the population of Australia. One can see how unsustainable it will be when 2.6 billion people are striving to live like us; 2 cars and a double garage. Again thats 2600000000.

I think the essence of what was discussed is how we can help by setting an example to the rest of the world. The old saying "it starts from 1", might not be that far fetched. If we push forward a sustainable way of living perhaps we can create and preserve a future more catered to our needs rather than our wants

In the midst of what can only be described as left wing hippie talk, i couldn’t help notice the tranquility of his new abode. He kept stressing the healthy lifestyle he now lives. Even though there is a big possibility he could get moved off in a matter of weeks, he claims that living around nature has improved his physical and mental attributes, since he rows to shore then back everyday. I don’t dispute it’s benefits. 

I think what Bill has created here is something extremely positive, not only for himself or for the environment, but for an institution like the University of Canberra, he is a terrific addition to the old Uni, and I hope the University will recognise him for his accomplishments. We forget sometimes that University is a time to explore and experiment, I believe that we should question the very nature of authority, perhaps sometimes authority is unjustified and that maybe the lecturer you have shares a different opinion to you. The conservative surroundings and nature of society sometimes restricts what we are actually capable of, I respect the steps he has taken into standing up to authority, his peaceful way of demonstrating a social issue which many university students are facing, but aren’t being heard and I hope the University will see the reasons in why somebody in second year Industrial Design has chosen to live in a Teepee in the middle of the lake. 

Regardless of his reasons, i feel that Bill has expressed something we all think of, he is that voice inside of us when we hear of injustice and unfairness. The only difference between us and him is that he decided to do something about it.

The table was built with a bit of innovation and fun

2 Bags of ice and you have a fridge for a week

A security box where he keeps his valuables and tools, he keeps a generator for a small TV, his one and only outside luxury.

The design of the Teepee was chosen as it provided a basic form of built insulation and provided excellent cover from the elements. Contrary to popular belief it is not because he is a native american fanatic.

The deck was created from basic timber and wood boards from Bunnings Warehouse and was one of the easier things to assemble as it came from a kit

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