At Carraig Ridge, Ian MacGregor wanted to blend the design of the homes into the beauty of the environment – his personal home, the Rock House, is a testament to that vision. Photos courtesy Bent René Synnevåg

Ian MacGregor’s Rock House at Carraig Ridge melds mountain views with modern, sustainable design

Ian MacGregor has always loved the mountains. So when the oil and gas executive decided to develop close to 700 acres of his personal land halfway between Cochrane and Canmore, he utilized his entrepreneurial expertise to parlay that love into an innovative plan – one that would protect the environment and offer a leading-edge, sustainable model of estate-style rural living.

The result is Carraig Ridge, a collection of 44 two- to five-acre home sites flawlessly carved into the canvas of Alberta’s foothills. Residents share ownership of the 550 acres of community lands. The project is the culmination of MacGregor’s lifelong ambition to establish a community of world-class modern architecture with the Rocky Mountains as the backdrop. His own private retreat – the Rock House – designed by Seattle-based James Cutler of Cutler Anderson Architects, is attracting international attention and setting the architectural benchmark for the development.

CREB®Now: What was the vision for Carraig Ridge?

Ian MacGregor: The idea here was to do something different – to develop the land beautifully in the most sensitive way, with a respect for the environment and for nature. We didn’t think that splitting the land into 40-acre parcels was the best way – we would have ended up with power lines and roads that would detract from the beauty and we would have had to cut down a bunch of trees. So we worked in conjunction with the MD and we were able to plan lots of two to five acres and the owners will all own the remaining 550 acres in common tenancy.

All of the services are downloaded to us. We had the idea right from the start that we wanted to have city quality of services – water and sewage – so you take away the hassles of living in the country. We brought in world-class conservation planners – each home has to be carefully sited so that it doesn’t interfere with the next one. We tried to plan it so that you still have the wilderness feeling even though you are living not that far away from the next home. We spent a lot of time thinking about these things.

“The idea here was to do something different – to develop the land beautifully in the most sensitive way, with a respect for the environment and for nature.” – Ian MacGregor

We also wanted to do something different in the way of architecture. So we went to some of what we thought were the best contemporary architects in the world and asked them to design one or more houses for us. Our goal was to blend the design of the homes into the beauty of the environment. We want to build homes that last for 300 years. We asked ‘how big do they really need to be?’ We don’t need to spend all of this money on giant square footage – we would rather spend it on making it a better place to live. The concept is to build what you need, rather than what you can afford, with a real focus on durability and really high quality. Probably everybody says that, but we are really doing it.

CREB®Now: Your own personal retreat in Carraig Ridge, the Rock House, has won several design awards. Can you talk a little bit about the design?

Ian MacGregor: The first house in the development was designed by James Cutler and it was 750-square feet and he did it for me. My wife and I were living in a 2,600-square-foot home and my kids weren’t at home any more and we really didn’t need a house that big. We wanted to build something that was the right size for us, with one bedroom. It has this incredible inside-outside feel to it because of the windows and the way that the architecture spreads into the environment. I believe that this is one of the most beautiful places in the world and you have to be really careful how you fit any building into that environment. You want to do everything possible so that you can feel that you are outside when you are inside. You just want to be able to sit on your couch and watch this incredible outside environment occur.

We used all natural materials – lots of wood, concrete and glass. The idea was to have the roof look like it was floating above. We used galvanized steel – that goes back to the longevity aspect of the building. It will last for several generations. I’m planning on owning this home for as long as I am on this earth, and when I am not here, my kids will own it after me.

Homeowner: Ian MacGregor

Home: Rock House, a 750-square-foot home designed by Seattle-based James Cutler of Cutler Anderson Architects.

Development: Carraig Ridge, a collection of 44 homesites of between two to five acres with stunning mountain views. Owners jointly own the 550 acres of community land and have access to an additional 1,500 acres of recreation area protected in perpetuity by conservation easement.

Price: Lots are priced at $1 million for land only, and start at $2.1-million for land plus a home designed by Todd Saunders of Norway-based Saunders Architecture, Seattle-based Olsen Kundig Architects, Bryan Young of the New York-based Young Project Studio or James Cutler of Cutler Anderson Architects.