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BIRIUKOVA, Alexandra

Vladivostok, Russia, 1895
Richmond Hill, Ontario, 1967
Biography synopsis
The first woman to register with the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) in 1931, Alexandra Biriukova is best known for her notable Moderne design of the Toronto residence of Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris in 1930. Born in Vladivostok, Biriukova was awarded an architecture degree in 1914 from the School of Architecture in Petrograd. She fled to Rome with her family at the time of the Russian Revolution, where she received a degree from the Royal Superior School of Architecture in 1925. Already trained as an architect, Biriukova immigrated to Toronto in 1929, to join her sister, artist Yulia Biriukova (1897-1972). Although Biriukova is named as architect on the contract drawings for the Lawren Harris residence, and the house was credited to her when drawings and photographs of it were published in 1931, some modern day architectural historians have questioned how much credit Biriukova should receive for this elegant and iconic house. In recognition of its architectural and historical importance the City of Toronto included the Lawren Harris house on the Inventory of Heritage Properties in 1975. Whether it was resistance to a modernist house in conservative Toronto, because she was a woman, or as a result of the lean Depression years, Biriukova garnered no further architectural commissions. She resigned from the profession in 1934. Biriukova subsequently trained as a tuberculosis nurse at the Free Toronto Hospital for the Consumptive Poor (now called West Park Hospital), where she worked until her retirement in the 1960s. Those who knew her later were unaware of her career as an architect. (I Puchalski)
Media used
School of Architecture, Petrograd, 1911 - 1914
Royal Superior School of Architecture, Rome, 1922 - 1925
Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), 1931
File & Archive locations
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
Virginia Tech, VA - International Archive of Women in Architecture

Writings about
Viewpoints: One Hundred Years of Architecture in Ontario, 1889-1989. Ruth Cawker, Curator. Toronto: Ontario Association of Architects, 1989.
"A Canadian Artist's Modern Home: Alexandra Biriukova, Architect." Canadian Homes and Gardens 8.4 (April 1931): 40.
"Activities of Provincial Associations: the Ontario Association of Architects." Journal, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada 8.6 (June 1931): 250.
"Biriukova, Alexandra." Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950 2009
Adams, Annmarie. ""Marjorie's Web" Canada's First Woman Architect and Her Clients." Rethinking Professionalism: Women and Art in Canada, 1850-1970. Ed. Kristina Huneault and Janice Anderson. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012. 380-399.
Adams, Annmarie & Peta Tancred. 'Designing Women': Gender and the Architectural Profession. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.
Adams, Annmarie and Peta Tancred. "Designing Women: Then and Now." Canadian Architect 45.11 (Nov. 2000):16-17.
Adams, Annmarie and Peta Tancred. "One More Profession "Invaded"." Beaver 80.6 (Dec. 2000/Jan. 2001): 30-31.
Blumenson, John. "Lawren Harris Home on the Market for $6.9 Million; House Striking in Design: Architect was Russian Woman." Toronto Star 22 Feb. 2003.
Blumenson, John. "Stark Simplicity Marks Modern Architecture Toronto Styles; Home that Belonged to Group of Seven Artist Offers Perfect Example." Toronto Star 23 Sept. 2000.
Contreras, Monica, Luigi Ferrara & Daniel Karpinski. "Breaking In: Four Early Female Architects." Canadian Architect 38.11 (Nov. 1993): 18-23.
Dendy, William and William Kilbourn. Toronto Observed: Its Architecture, Patrons, and History Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Grierson, Joan and the For the Record Committee, eds. For the Record: The First Women in Canadian Architecture. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2008.
Hume, Christopher. "Group of Seven's Creative Brush Leaves Legacy Throughout the City." Toronto Star 10 Feb. 1996.
Ireland, Carolyn. "A Forest Hill Masterpiece." Globe & Mail 25 July 2008: G18.
Jones, Donald. 'Six to Collect for the Heritage Shelf." Toronto Star 5 Dec. 1987.
Kalman, Harold. A History of Canadian Architecture. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1994.
LeBlanc, Dave. "Tweaking Lawren Harris's Art Deco Home in Toronto." Globe & Mail 11 May 2012: G10.
Morawetz, Tim. Art Deco Architecture in Toronto: a Guide to the City's Buildings from the Roaring Twenties and the Depression. Toronto: GLUE INC., 2009.
Rafelman, Rachel. "Home is Where the European Influence Is: Gimme Shelter." Globe & Mail 20 April 1995: E6.
Simmins, Geoffrey. Ontario Association of Architects: a Centennial History, 1889-1989. Toronto: Ontario Association of Architects, 1989.
Van Ginkel, Blanche Lemco. "Slowly and Surely (and Somewhat Painfully): More or Less the History of Women in Architecture in Canada." Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada Bulletin 17.1 (Mar. 1991): 5-11.
Van Ginkel, Blanche Lemco. "Slowly and Surely (But Somewhat Painfully): More or Less the History of Women in Architecture in Canada." Canadian Architect 38.11 (Nov. 1993): 15-17.
Vansittart, Katharine. "Deco Reiterative." Canadian Architect 57.4 (April 2012): 20-24.
Virginia Tech. "IAWA Database Information for Alexandra Biriukova." International Archive of Women in Architecture Nov. 2003
Weiler, Meriké. "The Lawren Harris Legacy: the Great Painter's Home has been Avant-Garde for Sixty Years." City & Country Home 10.9 (Nov. 1991): 100-105.

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