William’s Floating Teepee

William Woodbridge is a 21 year old second year university student. He has a unique way of looking at life and how he lives as a student is quite different than the usual.

Williams lives in a teepee and a floating teepee at that. Will says “It’s deliciously hippyish.”

Will's Teepee

Will decided to leave campus life after accidentally setting off a fire alarm and then being fined $350. At first, Will lived in the back of his car, he than decided to build a raft and looked at what options he would have for shelter. He looked at cabin-type tents and finally his uncle suggested a teepee.

Will says he found out that a teepee design and ergonomics allow for it to stay quite warm. With its cone shape it is very stable even when the wind gets quite strong. He says that storms have not been a problems with the teepee.

Will inside of teepee

Unfortunately Will says the ACT Government has been in contact with him and wants him to move along. He may have to move out by the end of this week. Will seems completely calm with this grim fact, but knows he will have to do something soon.

I hope all goes well for William and I appreciate his inspiration for living tiny and self-sufficiently.

Photographs by John Griffiths

Will's storage unit

Will rowing out to teepee

Will's teepee

75 thoughts on “William’s Floating Teepee”

  1. Not sure where you are at William, but transfer to my alma mater St. Mary’s College of Maryland public honor’s college on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay. They’re renovating the dorms right now, and putting those students up on a massive boat right now–a floating dorm. Also, students frequently live in boats moored right off campus and there’s a good sailing program and dock house to park your dingy. Water lifestyles encouraged! I didn’t participate in the water life while a student, but now as a young professional, I live on my power boat in Annapolis.

    • Not sure where you are at William, but transfer to my alma mater St. Mary’s College of Maryland public honor’s college on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay.

      I think the way he is referred to as a “university student” instead of “college student” is a good indication he’s not from this country. ACT stands for Australian Capital Territory.

    • I recall people in my college dorm “accidentally” getting completely wasted and “accidentally” pulling a fire alarm… or “accidentally” throwing a string of firecrackers down the stairwell. It’s unfortunate how “accident” prone kids can be.

      • There is a longer article on the web about this guy. He said he was cooking rice and the steam set the fire alarm off, and there was no way for him to turn it off.

        • We had a flood in our school apartments one year, a student cooking garlic bread that burnt. Another similar incident in the dorms (at 7am in -35C weather, and yes I was in the shower when it went off). In all my years in the school systems and the dozens of times the fire alarm has been set off, only one has been intentional (and that was in highschool).

        • He said he was cooking rice and the steam set the fire alarm off, and there was no way for him to turn it off.

          I saw that too after seeing your comment. So he was “accidentally” cooking in his room.

          Thing is though, it doesn’t matter if he was cooking rice in his room or smoking cigarettes – the outcome was the same in that he triggered the fire alarm, caused the fire department to have to rush out and for a possible emergency, and caused his dorm-mates to have to evacuate their building. Here are links to a couple of the websites for the on-campus, student housing at the school he attends, I’d be willing to bet all residence areas have substantially the same rules:
          As you can see, the rules for one explicitly state: “Cooking is only permitted in kitchens. Cooking equipment such as hot plates, rice cookers, electric woks and fry pans are not permitted in Rooms.” The other states: “For fire and safety issues additional electrical cooking or heating items are not permitted within your apartment.” So, he might as well have been smoking in his room, as it was against the rules as well, and setting the fire alarm off would still have been an “accident” since he would have intended only to enjoy a cigarette, not call out the fire department.

          The fine for setting off the fire alarm was not the result of an accident; it was the result of a failure to follow the simple rules required of the place in which he was living.

          • Just taking a hot shower can set of fire alarms. I know, the dorm I used to live in had a bad design and had a fire alarm right outside the door to the bathroom. when you would open the door after hot showers, the steam would come rolling out and instantly set off the alarm. That’s not even smoke, just steam. As for the gov’t freaking out because they are not making money off of one citizen who decided to try something new, It makes me sick that the powers that be can be so oppressive with great ideas. They are more greedy than they are caring.

          • In Australia where he is, university dorms have shared kitchens, where he would have been cooking.

            I set my kitchen smoke alarm off on the weekend just by making pancakes, but since I live in my own house it doesn’t affect anyone else.

            What would make you think he’d be cooking in his bedroom?

  2. I am assuming that this is in Australia (ACT- Australia Capitol Territory)? Am wondering where they get tipis down under — pretty nice design. Also wondering how he lashed it down — the design really only works against high winds if the tipi is staked down. Also, sorry to say, but his tripod skills for the poles could use a little work. Other than that, right on to Will!

    • He was taking all his waste ashore and disposing of it in a responsible manner. If he dumped it in the lake he would most likely have been arrested. Canberra (ACT) is a highly environmentally aware city. Built on Garden City principles back in the day seems to have carried a community consciousness down through the generations. It just wouldnt be tolerated. One of the cleanest cities you are ever likely to see.

  3. Despite me having no idea what it’s plugged into [an Inverter?], the AC Plugs and Power Strip in the Bear Skin Rug pic appear to be the round 240 VAC type used in Oz.

  4. The wheelbarrow of dirt is for his herb garden.

    He does have a porta pottie.

    Someone stole his generator! they would have had to row out there to steal it.

    Although the govt wants to move him on, he has received permission from local aboriginal people to stay anywhere he likes on their land.

    The students who board at the privately run, contracted out campus dorms do not have tenants rights under ACT laws. This is how they are extorted by the private companies that took over university run accommodation.

    Admire his free spirit!

    • The students who board at the privately run, contracted out campus dorms do not have tenants rights under ACT laws.

      I’m not sure that any tenants rights enjoyed by anyone, anywhere absolve a tenant of the consequences of violating the terms of a lease agreement. I wouldn’t be at all surprised by, or feel I could argue with, a charge from the fire department if the fire department were called to my apartment building as the result of an intentional violation the rules of my lease.

        • Josh, you must be a tonnes of fun at parties.

          Wow, how amazingly clever; you really zinged me good there. I actually can be “tons” of fun at parties (it’s never been measured on the metric scale though). You see, my ability to apply logic and reasoning and determine the true facts and circumstances of a situation is a separate skill from my ability to entertain people and have a good time. You don’t have to be dumb to be fun at parties, but if that’s what works for you, more power to you.

  5. Not sure but I’d be willing to bet, based on my own experience, that cooking is discouraged by the food service contractor who has the contract for the dorms. They make it difficult for students to cook so they have to buy food. More power to him!

    • *facepalm*

      What about when those residences have kitchens in them? Why would it then be necessary to cook in your individual room? Hell, even when I was in college, nearly everyone had a meal plan to eat at the cafeteria, but we still had a kitchenette on each floor where you could cook and wash dishes, etc. If you had read a little about it (I even provided links to a couple of the on-campus residence hall websites), you would see that kitchen areas are available to students. For example, at the Arscott House, it appears to be very much the typical dorm room, with shared kitchen areas, shared bathrooms, etc. At The Village, it seems they offer larger apartments (up to 13 bedrooms) with 2 shared bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, and a dining area. The Weeden Lodge appears to be studio apartments, each with a kitchenette and bathroom, and a shared full kitchen area for residents. In any event, I imagine you’d be hard pressed to find on campus housing anywhere that would allow the use of hot plates, rice cookers, and the like inside an individual room.

      They actually sound a lot more accommodating than the on-campus housing that most of us are probably familiar with. Let’s not pretend this is the story of someone being bullied by the residence hall management. It’s more like a – if you’re not willing to follow the rules, prepare for the consequences. Or you could abide by what my old 1SG used to tell me – if you’re not going to be good, you better be good at it. He didn’t care, as long as I was smart enough to not get caught. So, if you’re going to break the rules and cook in your room, maybe be smart, and don’t do it under the smoke detector – I imagine you’d have to be pretty near to it to set it off with steam from cooking rice!

      • Josh, you’re being a total drag, besides disregarding the purpose of this blog, which is to “discover the different options available for a person looking to down size into a tiny house or cabin” (see the “About” page). Please take your know-it-all negativity elsewhere.

  6. As a Native American I can say: Cultural Appropriation at its worst. My culture, the plains culture, is not up for young white college boys to appropriate and steal. Tipis do not belong to everybody, and they hold important cultural significance to my people. Now people get to “play indian” like we don’t exist anymore. You should read Native Appropriations blog and get educated as to why this is both cultural rape and appropriation. I’m tired of seeing this cr*p.

    • One question for u Sloane…is it considered cultural rape for your people to live in european style houses? Your the one dishin out racist cr*p. We are truly one people and the cultural slogan for our earth should be to live simply so that others may simply live. You should be honored that your ancestors gave us a model of simple living that may be the key to survival in the near future. To try to deny anyone the right to use a good idea because they have diferent ancestry than you is pretty self-defeating; especially since science has determined we are all at least tenth-cousins on this earth at this point in time…so i will be erecting my tipi with pride…and cultural honor…even tho i am just a little white girl in your eyes.

    • Here we go again, cultural purists of whatever flavour. Arrant nonsense. Adopt, adapt, improve. Just using a similar item in a similar way is not automatically theft or rape or whatever. There is also a similar structure made by the Same people, called a lavvu. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavvu

    • Sloane, I would agree if the tipi was appropriated for aesthetic or cultural reasons, but William used it for its structural integrity, warmth and ability to withstand the elements, not ‘playing indian’. There are few such structures that do not have some (or many) different cultural backgrounds. It is a credit to your people that they devised a simple structure that can’t be faulted and is still relevant design today (even in a country on the other side of the planet), and no-one is going to forget where the idea came from.

    • So Sloane gets in a rage about someone in Australia using a teepee but then the local Aboriginal tribe welcomes “Teepee Man” with open arms. Interesting.

  7. Actually, in weekends off from High Tech-related Biz Travel, and on Vacations, I’ve hit a number of Countries, and have had kind Hosts take me to places not usually seen w/o a Guide. Like, Mountain Villages in Taiwan. In more than one Culture, I’ve seen intrinsically-smart Dwelling designs using local Materials [of course].

    ‘Skara Brae’, in extreme N. Scotland, made use of Logs washed up from Canada, and covered with either Animal Hides or Seaweed. See such a Roof example on Page 8 of the lengthy Link below. The Dwellings were mostly buried, due to the howling North Sea conditions.

    Ask yourself what fine points you know [or any of us know] re: Australian Aboriginal Culture, since the Student in this Story is Australian. In a like manner, I wouldn’t expect an Australian College ‘Kid’ to know North American Plains Culture, either. Indeed, untold numbers of Tourists annually [and knowingly] insult Aboriginal Culture by climbing Ayer’s Rock.

    Rain-shedding designs that don’t require hard right angles in Framing developed in multiple Countries, very old W. Chinese Yurts notwithstanding…

    Int’l Travel broadens perspective. Multiple Trips to Japan certainly changed my perspective on making ‘small’ spaces work, and for multiple functions.


  8. I was really surprised by the cultural rape comment. He saw an idea he liked and used it himself. I doubt he was trying to insult or degrade the original culture that supplied the idea.

  9. Further developments. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/teepee-battle-heads-to-court-20120329-1w1id.html

    William has the support of a local Indigenous elder and will take the matter to the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see how that goes, but it’s great to see a non-Indigenous Australian and an Indigenous Australian in agreement about the rights of someone to live in a responsible and environmentally friendly way in a place where they’re not inconveniencing anyone. The Indigenous people have ‘land rights’ but government property and bureaucracy still reign supreme in these post-colonial times.

    I think William is well within his rights to choose not to live within rules and regulations that are at odds with how the traditional inhabitants of Australia lived here up until only two-hundred odd years ago (and still do live in more remote parts of the country) and not to engage with heartless corporations like the one that runs his former student accommodation. It’s quite inspiring, really, and I hope more people follow his example.

    I live in Canberra and was a student a while ago. It’s very difficult for uni students here to balance study and work, to pay for their accommodation and other living expenses. Australian parents don’t usually pay for their kids to attend college like in the USA, and while they rack up a debt to the government for their uni fees, they have to pay everything else themselves. And living anywhere in Canberra isn’t cheap! Go William!

  10. William is an inspiration to progressive people in Canberra with his peaceful and creative protest about an important issue here. As Anni mentioned affordable accommodation is hard to find and rents are high making life for many students very difficult. Many have to work long hours in addition to study and at the end they have a huge debt to repay.

    William is a brave young man who is highlighting a real social problem in Australia. His tipi is really beautiful floating out there on our Lake Ginninderra.

    The fire alarm was set off by burning toast and was accidental. There are public toilets and running water a few minutes away aswell as free barbeque facilities.

  11. Two letters that were published recently in Canberra Times about the Tipi man.

    To the Editor:

    William Woodbridge the UC student who has been living in his teepee on Lake Ginninderra for the last few weeks is being forced to move on the 30th of this month.
    Many of us will be very sad to see him go! His peaceful protest highlighting the difficulties most students face with accommodation is creative and effective.
    Some people complain about Canberra being a ‘boring’ place. Bill, and brave people like him bring some needed life and delight to our city.
    Good on you Bill! We wish you could stay in your beautiful floating home!

    To the editor,
    I agree with Jyoti Dambiec (Letters, March 20) that William Woodbridge’s Lake Ginninderra teepee adds something human, soulful and even magical to our increasingly delightful city.
    Canberra may be struggling to attract tourists but tag-wearing Public servants could be integral to the solution instead being part of the problem (as Patrick Bent suggested in Letters, March 20). If a forward thinking Public servant were to grant Mr. Woodbridge an exemption for the term of his studies, it could prove to be the most cost effective boost to Canberra’s tourism that we have ever seen. And as far as being hip and trendy are concerned, Mr. Woodbridge has done our city a great service: Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide haven’t event dreamed of a floating Teepee yet.
    Jonathon Crane, Reid

  12. I live in Australia. Their building laws are OTT crazy. Even in rural areas. For example, you can’t use recycled windows due to energy regulations etc. I dream of building my tiny home but here, it looks like it may never happen or it will cost over $200k by the time all the council regulations are met. 🙁

  13. The Australian Govt needs to back off and leave this young man alone. He isn’t poluting and is being free to live as he has chosen to live. William move to the US where such living would be welcomed, especially in the Northwest USA.

  14. Good idea guest it is warm were you are if you get through the Government $@#^&* and need to be warmer or cooler a inter liner will help a tipi is like living in a flew and you can build your fire in cut off barrel with out being all smoked up in side the smoke will stay clear to the top of the inter liner I think you are on to some thing and the smoke flaps working as sails this has possibility’s might dig out my tipi and try this looks like fun OTTER

  15. YES! I’ve never seen a floating teepee before, and now I am so glad I have! I love William’s sense of fun and freedom, and his very low-impact, DIY, free way of living.

    I have included this wonderful structure in a post about my favourite Tiny Dwellings. You can have a peek here if you wish:


    Keep up the great work, William, I hope to one day sleep in a floating teepee!

    Katie. xxx

  16. Awesome. I love it that this young man can think for himself and live sufficiently off the land and water. Keep on keeping on!

  17. very good idea i am from Colombia and live in USA in aboat in the golf of mexico near Naples,Florida i love tepes my husband is fron australia and we go to paw wows gaderings with difrent trips i wish every body will go back in living in nature and respect more mother earth.SAVE THE WORLD!

  18. Hi everyone.

    I actually Live in Australia, ACT and I am pretty sure this chap was able to stay on the lake for alot longer. he got permission by the local aboriginal elders to be on their land. I am not sure if hes still living out there now (mid 2012), but ill check it out next time im near the lake.

  19. Hey Kent – Can you do a follow up to this story please?

    And a little more detail on the construction. And what is that that he is using for a food storage container..?


  20. My daughter pointed out William’s floating teepee as we were driving to work one day. I didn’t believe her and almost had a crash checking it out! He was there for quite a few months which was a delight to see as we would drive past. The tent would float around the lake so you would never know where he was going to be. A comment above mentions Huck Finn, and yes, that’s what it made me think of. The tent would usually be on the smaller side of Ginninderra Drive: https://maps.google.com.au/maps?q=Google+maps+Lake+Ginninderra+Canberra&client=firefox-a&hnear=Lake+Ginninderra&gl=au&t=m&z=14

  21. will….where or did you build the part that floats that you built the tepee on……i would love to have one that floats….except build the tepee out of cypress…..my grandson would love one of those…..


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