The idea for Roundhouse was born in 2015.
As an assistant professor for MacEwan’s School of Business, Leo Wong had encountered countless student entrepreneurs, as well as staff and faculty who were working on amazing social initiatives. But inevitably classes would end, and so did their projects. The question Leo and his fellow professors kept asking was “how can we keep these projects sustainable long enough to see social impact?” Leo’s solution: an incubator located right on MacEwan’s campus.
Around the same time, Kris Bruckmann, executive director of MacEwan’s Campus Services was brainstorming ideas for retail space in Allard Hall (MacEwan’s arts building which was set to open in 2017).
Leo and Kris weren’t strangers to each other — they were already working together on opportunities for student entrepreneurs to sell their products on campus. With their respective ideas floating around in their heads, the pair met for lunch in the cafeteria. One conversation led to another, and soon they were imagining a hypothetical space where people who were making an impact in the community could come together and collaborate.
Leo didn’t think much more of that conversation until a week later when he received an email from Kris about how he couldn’t stop thinking about this coworking space idea and had spent the entire weekend researching it. Soon enough, they began to build a business case to convert the 10,000 sq foot space in the corner of Allard Hall into a place for social change.
The idea was huge and the timeline ambitious. Like any startup, challenging the status quo wasn’t easy. They knocked on office doors, emailed and called faculty members across the entire campus—and one-by-one, they gained the support they needed.
Their hard work paid off in 2016 when they got the green light to move forward. A committee was formed and the first meeting was held to discuss the concept of a social innovation coworking space. Driven by collaboration and community, the new committee held countless meetings and info sessions to get direction from their stakeholders on what the space should look and feel like, and what role it would play in Edmonton’s community.
Soon after, Roundhouse finally got its name (read about the inspiration for our brand here) and the MacEwan University Social Innovation Institute was founded and established as a place where students, staff and faculty could get connected with experts and innovators to support their efforts to make positive change.
Finally, in June 2018, Roundhouse opened its doors for members and for social change. But that was just the beginning. Today, we’re home to more than 100 entrepreneurs, researchers, nonprofits and people just like you who are ready to take action and turn their good ideas into positive social impact.
Roundhouse’s design was influenced by three fundamental layers: the railway, reconciliation and nature — each of these are intertwined with who we are and what we believe in.
While excavating the ground Allard Hall sits on, contractors found an old CN train roundhouse — a circular area of railyard where multiple tracks converge and trains are switched to different tracks. Trains entered from one direction, picked up resources and accessed any services they needed, before heading off in a new direction. From day one, it has been our team’s mission to be a place for people to converge and get what they need to continue with their business or idea — and so, we found our name. This discovery also inspired us to incorporate industrial, railway-themed elements throughout our space and to structure our main presentation space in the round.
We acknowledge, honour and respect the cultures of the many Indigenous peoples and the ancestral lands in Treaty Six Territory that Roundhouse is on. Our past is important to us, and we believe it should influence how we move forward. Roundhouse is an inclusive place that welcomes individuals from all walks of life to come together, connect, develop meaningful relationships and celebrate their culture. These values have guided everything from our branding to our physical space.
As a society, we spend a lot of time indoors, at home and at work, so it’s easy to become disconnected from the outside world. At Roundhouse, we believe in the importance of biophilic design: incorporating elements from the natural environment. Check out our space page to learn more.
We are all responsible for our world. And we’re stronger together. We exist to help people from the community connect, create and nurture relationships that help grow their ideas and themselves. When we work together to make real change, we all win.
We are here to support changemakers and their efforts to make the world a better place. By creating an atmosphere of optimism, we empower people to transform ideas into meaningful impact in our city, our province, our world.
We drive social change and kickstart a culture of leaders helping others to find success and become leaders themselves. Our space is where ideas can thrive and people can test the boundaries of what they can do. We constantly learn and strive to be better, and do better.
We respect our past, the hard work that led us to where we are today, and the people who come to our space to make a difference We know that everyone brings a new skill, experience, or perspective to the conversation. And we do our best to make sure every person is heard.
Our logo is a triskaidecagon (a 13-sided shape). It emulates the shape of a roundhouse, with the sides representing different directions from which a train can come and go. It also represents the First Nations talking circle where all voices have importance, symbolizing the culture we are creating at Roundhouse.