I interviewed Juana Restrepo for my documentary The Rise of Medellín as a Creative City, which you can watch for free on YouTube. You can also watch the interview with Juana on its own. She is one of the co-founders of La Casa Redonda, a popular co-working space in Laureles. Five Colombian friends founded La Casa Redonda as a collective in 2016 and the co-working space has grown organically over time. Here is the slightly edited transcript of the interview:
Juana Restrepo: Hola.
Juana Restrepo: Café Volcánico.
Julian Power: And we’re going to talk a little bit about the founding story of La Casa Redonda.
Juana Restrepo: Okay.
Julian Power: And the change in Medellín. Before I came here when I was in Germany, I read about La Casa Redonda on the internet.
Juana Restrepo: Sí.
Julian Power: And I read good stuff, so I decided to take an apartment, which is nearby La Casa Redonda.
Juana Restrepo: And you just looked for co-working spaces in Medellín and La Casa Redonda appeared?
Julian Power: Yeah, I was looking specifically for Laureles. And this one has the best community.
Juana Restrepo: And what did you know about Laureles already?
Julian Power: It’s less touristy than Poblado and that’s the main reason. And it’s cheaper as well. Those were the two main factors. So I rented an apartment nearby and now that I’ve experienced La Casa Redonda I really like the community of people here. Everyone says so, but it’s very true. It’s like a good spirit, and always when I come here, I feel good. And it’s also a good mix of internationals and Colombians. So it’s not just Colombians, not just internationals, but both. And it’s also not just software programmers. It’s like everything, artists, writers, photographers, architects.
Juana Restrepo: Even engineers.
Julian Power: For example, this Australian guy, he’s doing an interesting project. He’s working on a Spanish course.
Juana Restrepo: I had an interview with him. Shay is his name.
Julian Power: Yeah, Shay. Shout out to him.
Juana Restrepo: I really like that you recognize that about La Casa Redonda because that’s what we want to make people feel. And the people can enjoy working in this place, share it with locals and also people from all over the world. If you’re from China, from Chile, from Madrid, we have a good mix of people here.
Julian Power: Yeah, that’s very true.
Juana Restrepo: Some are younger, some are older, but all of them want to share. The main thing we all want, share and get to know each other, starting from the part of the world that you come from and after that whatever you do in your daily work.
Julian Power: Yeah, that’s true. I also think now we’re coming to the founding story, because this spirit is in part of because it’s a collective.
Juana Restrepo: Yeah. We are friends that wanted to have space together to work from. And we created La Casa Redonda to support that.
Julian Power: Yeah, I read in an article that you started in 2016?
Juana Restrepo: Yep.
Julian Power: And first you started with a trial. So you had one building which was going be demolished, but it had one remaining year so you could use it as working space.
Juana Restrepo: It was a pilot. So we went there. We filled the house and we started working independently. The house was so big that we just started adding more people. “Hey, do you wanna have a place to work? We have one. Come and share it.” And people started enjoying the community and the way we work, and we have now La Casa Redonda as an official business.
Julian Power: Yeah. So it worked really well, so you decided you’re going to put more energy into this.
Juana Restrepo: We paint. We build. We did a lot of things to have this house the way you see it.
Julian Power: Yeah, it’s really nice.
Juana Restrepo: We wanted to have a combination of art but also basic spaces. So we are not going to be just creatives. We wanted to have people from engineers, designers, psychologists. People can feel comfortable no matter what they do in the same space. That’s why you’re going to see a lot of art on our walls.
Julian Power: That’s the big main idea behind starting it as a concept.
Juana Restrepo: Because we have an architect in our group, so they wanted to do crazy ideas, and we all approved them. When we want to have a hallway mural, why not?
Julian Power: That’s a good point for my next question. I was wondering how many people are in the collective?
Julian Power: I was thinking on one side it’s a big advantage. It’s a very big project. There’s a lot of work and also financially, so you need a lot of manpower and womanpower to do this. But also it can be difficult if you have five people who have to decide. Is it a problem? Or how do you manage decision making?
Juana Restrepo: The daily decisions are in charge of Miguel and I. We don’t have to ask the five every single thing. But we do create together the business we want. So if we need to decide or we have to consider something, we ask the whole group. And we all work in here, so it’s very easy because two of the five are working here for La Casa Redonda, but the others are near working on other things. But they can help in the daily things.
Julian Power: So communication is really easy. So you never had a big conflict?
Juana Restrepo: Of course we have. It’s normal. Discussions and arguing. But I think we are very good and unique, a good group of workers. We are very good together.
Julian Power: Yeah, I think it’s a great energy. I really do like it. Let’s talk a bit about Medellín as well. In the last couple of years, Medellín became very popular with tourists and digital nomads and international people. Have you seen changes and what kind of changes have you seen?
Juana Restrepo: I think Medellín has the best weather in the world, so it is very welcoming and we want to have visitors. What I like about the people that come here are that they want to have this city as a a new city, it’s like, you are going to have an exchange. Apart from all the foreigners, who are spending one or two weeks in Poblado because it’s more touristic, and that’s it. They want to have fun and they want to know the culture, they want to know the city, but they just leave quickly. But people like you stay longer. They want to spend more than a month. So they want to be involved in the culture. They are sharing their life with us. That is changing. But it’s good to know that we are growing with tourism.
Julian Power: Yeah, I think Laureles has huge potential because you can walk everywhere. A lot of students because of the university, it’s a very young crowd. There are bars, restaurants, everything.
Juana Restrepo: And you have a lot of options here because you have bars, restaurants, markets and everything, but it’s not like you’re going to find a big nightlife. That is helpful with the bad tourism.
Julian Power: There is La Setenta, but there are no tourists, right?
Juana Restrepo: But La Setenta is separate from everything. There are hostels, bars and restaurants, but it’s not for living. So the living part is in the streets nearby, but not in La Setenta.
Julian Power: I think we have covered the main topics. Thank you for being part of this documentary.
Juana Restrepo: Of course. Thank you for having me here.
Julian Power: Yeah, you’re welcome. I really like the project, and I’m excited to see how it works out in the next couple of years.
Juana Restrepo: Me too. Nice to see you. And we are going to share it with all the people because we love Los Redondos.