Jack Evans served his country with distinction and made a significant contribution to the architectural landscape of South Australia particularly during his partnership with Greg Bruer and James Hall.
John (Jack) Richard Schomburgk Evans was born on 14 February 1892 at Hindmarsh to Dr John Herbert and Hermina Rosalie (née Schomburgk) Evans (South Australian births index: 895). Evans’ early education was at Queen’s School, North Adelaide. From 1906 to 1911 he continued his education at St Peter’s College before studying at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries (1912 to 1915) and joining F. Kenneth Milne as an articled pupil. Evans also became an Associate of the South Australian Institute of Architects (SAIA) in 1915. On completion of his articles he left Milne to join the Second Division Field Artillery in 1915 and served in the First World War in Egypt, France and Belgium. Earning a Commission in 1917, he was awarded in the following year the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery. Evans married Jocelyn Eleanor Bowman at St Peters College Chapel on 4 April, 1934 (SA Marriage Index: 359). It appears they had no children. He also served during the Second World War, when he was second-in-command of a VDC battalion in the Hills District of South Australia. After the war he took an active interest in the Stirling RSL and supported their various activities. At the time of his death, after a long illness, in 1948, the Evans were living at Heathfield in the Adelaide Hills. (‘Obituary’, SAIA Bulletin 1948; ‘Death of Mr J.R.S. Evans’, Advertiser 1948: 2).
Upon returning to Australia after his service in World War One, Evans worked for a time in Sydney as a draftsman with Moore, Kent and Massey (‘Obituary’, 1948). He later re-joined Milne in Adelaide, becoming a partner of the firm in 1921. By the end of 1930, the time of the Depression, Evans had left the partnership and set up his own practice at 64 Brookman Buildings, Grenfell Street, Adelaide. Evans then formed a partnership with another ex-serviceman, Lionel Gregory Bruer, in 1934 (Page 1986: 159; Advertiser 1931). The firm took on James Hall as a partner, becoming Evans, Bruer and Hall; a partnership which lasted until Evans’ death in 1948 (Page, 1986: 180). One of their articled students, Stewart Game from Sydney, recalled in 1985 that, unusually, the firm did not charge a premium as ‘their philosophy was to teach, and not to look for money from students’ (Page, 1986: 182).
Jack Evans was a Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and President of the South Australian Institute of Architects between 1947 and 1948 when his term was cut short by illness. He also served on the Architects Board of South Australia (‘Death of Mr J.R.S. Evans’; Lustri and Collins, 2010).
The firm of Evans & Bruer had some success in architectural competitions: the first premiated design in the Ideal Homes Competition (1933); one of three selected designs for the Adelaide Children’s Hospital (1935), and an honorary mention in the Burnside Hospital Competition (1946) (‘Obituary’, 1948).
The firm was responsible for the Burnside Civic Ballroom in which the stage and proscenium were designed in 1933 (Bruer, National Library). The firm also supervised the construction of the Hindmarsh Incinerator (opened 1936), one of two incinerators designed in South Australia by the architect Walter Burley Griffin in conjunction with Eric M. Nicholls. The incinerator survives today in a park on Burley Griffin Boulevard, Brompton (AHPI).
Evans, Bruer and Hall worked in association with interstate architects to become cinema specialists. Some of the theatre designs they were associated with included the 1938 West’s Theatre on Hindley Street, Adelaide, and the 1939 Art Deco styled Piccadilly Theatre at North Adelaide (Page, 1986: 180). West’s boasted ‘giant, streamlined, flowing shapes in ceiling decorations and hidden lighting that displayed a variety of colours before reducing to a midnight blue just before the curtain opened’ (Potter 2007: 10). The building is now used as the headquarters of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. The ‘rotunda-shaped foyer with its elegant curved staircases’ survive from its days as a theatre (Potter 2007).
The Piccadilly was designed by Evans, Bruer & Hall in association with Sydney-based architects Guy Crick and Bruce Furse (Page 1986: 181) for Dan Clifford, managing director of D. Clifford Theatres limited. The Piccadilly is a local landmark that has retained its external integrity despite being remodelled internally to incorporate three theatres in the late 1980s. Its massing and its streamlined form address the corner site and its distinctive ‘Chevron shaped windows’ contribute to its Art Deco character (AHPI).
Other buildings the firm designed included numerous hospitals, such as those at Stirling, Mt Barker and Kapunda, and a remodelling of the Queen Victoria Hospital, Rose Park. However much of the firm’s work was based around residential commissions, predominantly in the Georgian or Regency styles, and hotel maintenance work for the Southwark Brewery.
Julie Collins and Alison McDougall
Collins, Julie and McDougall, Alison, 'Evans, John (Jack) Richard Schomburgk ', Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2013, Architects of South Australia: http://www.architectsdataase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=110