Biriukova, Alexandra

BIRIUKOVA, Alexandra (1895-1967) holds a unique place in the development of Canadian modernism. Born in Vladivostok, Russia on 10 July 1895 she was the daughter of Dimiti Biriukoff, the chief civil engineer who built the originial trans-Siberian railway for the pre-revolutionary government. She attended the School of Architecture in Petrograd from 1911 until 1914 and continued her education in Rome where she attended the Royal Superior School of Architecture there in 1922-25. She trained in Rome under the Italian architect Arnoldo Foshini from 1924 to 1929 and after the death of her parents there she and her sister moved to Toronto in late 1929. Fluent in Russian, Italian and English, she developed a friendship with the Group of Seven member Lawren Harris, who asked her to re-work the designs for his planned house that had initially been prepared by Douglas Kertland. Her innovative scheme, completed in 1930, was set diagonally on the site on Ava Crescent in the Forest Hill neighbourhood of TORONTO, ONT., and was among the first private residences in the city to incorporate contemporary European ideas of simplified cubist forms clad in pure white stucco walls (Toronto Star, 30 Jan. 1931, 40, illus. & descrip.; C.H.G., viii, April 1931, 40, illus.; Canadian Architect, xxxviii, Nov. 1993, 20-1, illus.; H. Kalman, History of Canadian Architecture, 1994, 772-3, descrip.; Tim Morawetz, Art Deco Architecture Across Canada, 2017, 152-3, illus. & descrip.). A dearth of work during the Depression forced Biriukova to abandon the field of architecture in 1931 when she chose a career in nursing, later becoming Head Nurse at Westpark Hospital for Consumptives. She retired after 1960 and died in Richmond Hill, Ont. on 9 February 1967 (death notice Globe & Mail [Toronto], 10 Feb. 1967, 39; inf. Mrs. Elizabeth S. Campbell, Doncaster, Australia; Barbara Sankey, Toronto; inf. Ontario Assoc. of Architects).