Bernard Evans (architect)

Brigadier Sir Bernard Evans, DSO, ED (13 May 1905 – 19 February 1981)[1] was an Australian army officer, architect, builder and Lord Mayor of Melbourne (1959–1961).[2]

Sir Bernard Evans
Bernard Evans 022912.jpg
Lt Col Bernard Evans in January 1942
Born(1905-05-13)13 May 1905
Manchester, England
Died19 February 1988(1988-02-19) (aged 82)
Toorak, Australia
Service/branchAustralian Army
Years of service1924–1945
Commands held24th Brigade (1942–43)
2/23rd Battalion (1940–42)
57th/60th Infantry Battalion (1939–40)
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsKnight Bachelor
Distinguished Service Order
Efficiency Decoration
Mentioned in Despatches (3)
Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity
Other workArchitect
Lord Mayor of Melbourne

Early yearsEdit

Evans was born in Manchester, England on 13 May 1905.[3] In 1913 his family emigrated to Melbourne, initially living in St Kilda, and subsequently in Hampton. After completing his secondary schooling, he studied architectural drawing at night, and then worked as a designer and builder for his father, a builder. He was commissioned in the cadets in 1923, and the Militia in 1924. At Hampton Church of England on 21 September 1929 he married Dorothy May Ellis.[2]

Builder and designerEdit

In 1928 Evans established Hampton Timber & Hardware Pty Ltd and the Premier Building Co Pty Ltd. and begun building speculative villas, as well as an Arts and Crafts bungalow in Hampton called `Bunyip Lodge’ (c.1930) for his father-in-law. He also designed and built houses for the State Savings Bank of Victoria and hospitals for the Victorian Bush Nursing Association.[2]

The Depression saw Evans and his father head for Perth to establish a branch of their timber and hardware business, though Bernard soon returned to Melbourne as the designer and sometimes developer of blocks of flats in the early 1930s. WA mining entrepreneur Claude de Bernales engaged him for mining buildings at Kalgoorlie and Wiluna, then in 1936 he contracted Bernard - now styling himself a `designer and master builder’ - for London Court, a Tudor Revival open air arcade, long a Perth institution. Also in 1936 de Bernales engaged him on a project in Melbourne, to replace a mansion in Queens Road with an Art Deco style block of flats, the largest in the city at the time, with 51 flats over three wings.[4] In 1937, Evans remodeled De Bernales' mansion Overton Lodge in the Spanish Mission style, which now serves as the Cottesloe Civic Centre. In 1936, Evans' company General Construction Co. proposed a 10-storey block of flats for the corner of Robe and Acland Streets St Kilda, which would have been the tallest and largest block of flats in the city, but the council refused permission.[5][6]

Overton Lodge, Cottesloe c1950
London Court, Perth

Meanwhile, in 1934, he became a major in the 46th Battalion.

In 1937 he went to London to oversee the design and construction of 'Westralia House' in Gresham Street, another de Bernales project (demolished c2006).[7][8][9]While in Britain he was accepted into the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors.

On return to Australia in 1938, he was appointed lieutenant colonel commanding the 57th/60th Infantry Battalion, and in 1940 registered as an architect in Victoria.[2]

Second World WarEdit

On 1 July 1940 he was appointed to the Second Australian Imperial Force and ordered to form and command the 2/23rd Battalion, "Albury’s Own".

Tobruk, (April–October 1941).

El Alamein, 1 November 1942, command of the 24th Brigade as a temporary brigadier.

New Guinea, 1943.

Land Headquarters Tactical School (School of Tactics and Military Intelligence), Beenleigh, Queensland.

On 23 October 1945 he transferred to the Reserve as an honorary brigadier.[2]

Military appointmentsEdit

Cadet Service: Cdt 2lieutenant 30 Jun 23 Cdt lieutenant 31 Dec 23; Occupation: Architect[10]

From To Rank Role Unit[10][11][12]
13 May 1905 Born, Manchester UK
17 Dec 1924 Lieutenant Commissioned – 46th Battalion
23 Mar 1929 Captain
24 Aug 1934 Major
15-Dec-1939 30-Jun-1940 Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding Officer 57/60 Infantry Battalion
01-Jul-1940 31-Oct-1942 Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding Officer 2/23 Infantry Battalion[13]
26 Dec 1941 Mention in Despatches (Feb–Jul 41)
30 Dec 1941 Companion of the Distinguished Service Order
30 Jun 1942 Mention in Despatches (Jul–Oct 41)
01-Nov-1942 10-Nov-1943 Brigadier Officer Commanding 24 Australian Infantry Brigade (North Africa & New Guinea)
5 Nov 1942 Colonel
17 Nov 1943 Chief Instructor School of Tactics and Military Intelligence
1943 1945 Commandant School of Tactics and Military Intelligence
31 May 1944 Mention in Despatches (South-west Pacific Area 1 Apr-30 Sep 43)
7 Jun 1944 ED
23 Oct 1945 Retired – Reserve of Officers colonel (H/BRIG)


Sheridan Close St Kilda Road Portico
VACC St Kilda Road 1965

Returning to civilian life, Evans formed Bernard Evans & Associates, a firm which was responsible for some of the most prominent apartment and office buildings of the 1950s and 60s.

He continued his involvement in large apartment blocks as the architect for Sheridan Close in St Kilda road, built 1951–53, the largest company title `own-your-own’ flat development in Melbourne at the time. It was designed in a style described as a hybrid of Regency and Art Deco, and was followed in 1953-4 by Elizabeth Court, another own-your-own development in nearby Queen Road in a restrained Georgian style.[14]

In 1958 he won the tender from the Housing Commission of Victoria for Emerald Hill Court, South Melbourne, for low income families, the first high-rise estate to be built by the Commission. It included a number of low-rise blocks, and a pair of joined high-rise blocks constructed using economical slip-form construction.[2]

Bernard Evans and Associates was also responsible for some major office buildings in the central city, all while he was a City Councillor and Lord Mayor. An early major project was Ampol House, on the corner of Elizabeth and Grattan Streets, Carlton, completed in 1958, in a style of 'twenty years previously'[15] (which was demolished in 2011 despite being heritage listed[16]).

This was soon followed by his most well known, but later widely disliked, project, CRA Building at 99 Collins Street, the first truly high-rise office building to be built within the Hoddle Grid, completed in 1962.[17] At 26 floors, it was 10 storeys taller than the other new office towers, and as the first tower on top of the Collins Street hill in the eastern half of the city it was a very prominent. With its vertical ribbing emphasising its vertical proportions, the CRA towered over the still largely Victorian and Edwardian streetscape of the 'Paris End' of Collins Street, which it was later seen to unduly dominate,[18] and it was not missed when it was demolished in 1988. Another tower that still stands by the firm is the white gridded Legal and General Assurance buildings on the corner of Collins and Queen Streets, completed in 1967.

Smaller projects included the Golden Square car park in Lonsdale Street (1955), a 'dream home' built in 1958 in St Kilda Road that was a prize benefitting the Queen Victoria Hospital (dem), the London Assurance office built in Bourke Street (1959), an office building at 505 St KIlda Road (1960, dem), and headquarters for the Victoria Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) at 464 St Kilda Road (1965).

Evans's private companies were responsible for large suburban subdivisions, such as Witchwood Close, South Yarra, and industrial estates at Moorabbin.[2]

Councillor and Lord Mayor of the City of MelbourneEdit

He served for over 20 years as the Melbourne city councillor for Gipps ward, from 1949[19]–73. During this period he served two terms as Lord Mayor, 1959–60, and 60–61. With his expertise in planning and architecture, he was chairman of the building and town planning committee for many years (1956-58, 1964, 1966-70), as well the town hall and properties committee (1957-58) and the finance committee (1961). Citing European examples, he argued for taller buildings and more people living in the city, greater open space, and new buildings set back from the street to save the city from becoming `a dull, dusty jungle’.[2] He was part of the campaign for the creation of a public square in the central city, and was an advocate in the early 60s[20] for the site that was eventually chosen in 1966, which became the City Square. He was frequently in the news with opinions on a range of matters, such as Council's role in providing housing,[21] the problems of traffic and parking,[22] putting trams underground,[23] use of the Olympic Pool,[24] an underground train[25] (eventually built as the City Loop), and advocating a lower Yarra crossing[26] (eventually built as the West Gate Bridge).

Evans's reputation suffered in 1970 when his public role and private interests were alleged to have been in conflict. It was claimed that companies he controlled had benefited through the purchase of properties near the West Gate Bridge project and along the proposed underground rail loop, and through the sale of buildings to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (which dated back to the 1950s when Evans had been a councillor[27]), claims which he strenuously denied.[28] In 1971 he resigned from his firm—by then Bernard Evans, Murphy, Berg & Hocking Pty Ltd—and in 1973 from the city council.


In retirement he continued involvement in activities such as chairing the Royal Commonwealth Society of Australia, as well as courting controversy. In 1973 he provoked the resignation of businessman and Melbourne City Councillor David Wang from the Society by his racist remarks.[2] In retirement in his home, Warrawee, at Toorak, he indulged his enthusiasm for painting, and continued to manage his investments. Survived by his wife and their two daughters and son, he died on 19 February 1981 at home.[2]

Honours and awardsEdit

There is a plaque at St Matthews Church, 520 Kiewa Street, Albury commemorating Evans and his formation of the 2/23rd Battalion.[13][29]

Evans was appointed/awarded:

  Knight Bachelor (1 January 1962)[30]
  Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) (30 December 1941)[31]
Efficiency Decoration (ED) (1944)
  Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Stella della solidarietà italiana (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity) (1971)

He was Mentioned in Despatches three times.[32][33][34]

DSO Citation:
'The untiring energy and enthusiasm of this commanding officer, his solid leadership and total disregard of personal danger has been the main factor to the successes which have attended the activities of 2/23 Aust. Inf. Bn. With the exception of very brief periods in reserve positions this Bn has been in the FDLs of Tobruk since early in April and during that period Lt-Col. Evans has personally planned and supervised the numerous enterprises designed to ensure the defence of his sector and inflict losses in men, material and morale on the enemy. His personality and unceasing interest in his men has been an inspiration to all ranks.'[10]


  1. ^ B Evans Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine,
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j David Dunstan 'Evans, Sir Bernard (1905–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007
  3. ^ Australia in the war of 1939–1945, Australian War Memorial, pg 163.
  4. ^ "£50,000 Flats Block Planned". Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954). 9 March 1936. p. 10. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  5. ^ "219 FLATS IN ONE BLOCK". Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957). 10 August 1936. p. 4. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  6. ^ "BLOCK OF 228 FLATS AT ST. KILDA". Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957). 13 October 1936. p. 10. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  7. ^ "PERSONAL". West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954). 22 April 1937. p. 18. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  8. ^ "Last Australian To Cross Austrian Frontier". Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954). 2 May 1938. p. 8. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  9. ^ Contemporary newspapers state it was to be in Threadneedle Street but the London Gazette gives the address of Westralia House as 66 Gresham Street, about a block away. In c2006 a ‘1930s building’ at that address was demolished for a larger office project.
  10. ^ a b c VX47819 Bernard Evans, DSO,
  11. ^ Appointments Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine,
  12. ^ Brigadier Sir Bernard Evans,
  13. ^ a b Brigadier Sir Bernard Evans D.S.O., E.D., C.A.V.,
  14. ^ "NEW SELF-OWNERSHIP FLATS". Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954). 4 September 1953. p. 10. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  15. ^ "AMPOL house". Victorian Heritage Database.
  16. ^ Dowling, Jason (29 March 2011). "Demolition of key hotel approved". The Age. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  17. ^ The National Library of Australia holds many photos, eg this one
  18. ^ Annear, Robyn (26 March 2014). A City Lost and Found: Whelan the Wrecker's Melbourne. Black Inc. ISBN 9781922231413.
  19. ^ "Architect Wins Council Poll". Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954). 10 June 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  20. ^ "In Victoria This Week Melbourne Town Hall Not To Be Moved For City Square". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). 15 August 1961. p. 2. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  21. ^ "Councils Should Tackle Slums". Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954). 15 June 1954. p. 3. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  22. ^ "Traffic control "hot our job"". Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954). 5 December 1953. p. 3. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Underground Trams Plan". Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954). 5 August 1953. p. 3. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  24. ^ "In Victoria This Week Lord Mayor Calls The Melbourne Olympic Swimming Pool "Flop"". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). 29 August 1961. p. 2. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  25. ^ "IN VICTORIA THIS WEEK Design and colour of dollar notes criticised". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). 22 February 1966. p. 2. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  26. ^ "MELBOURNE - NOW AND THEN". Tribune (Sydney, NSW : 1939 - 1976). 27 March 1968. p. 6. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  27. ^ "'No profit' on sale of building". Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954). 29 July 1954. p. 5. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  28. ^ "Sir Bernard Evans explains land dealings". Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). 24 December 1970. p. 3. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  29. ^ Evans memorial plaque,
    In memory of Brigadier Sir Bernard Evans D.S.O., E.D., C.A.V. 1905 ~ 1981
    who raised 2/23RD BATTALION A.I.F. "ALBURY'S OWN" 1940. Tobruk, El Alamein.
    Commander 24th Brigade. El Alamein, Lae, Finschhafen.
    Commandant Australian Senior Tactical School, Beenleigh, Queensland.
    Lord Mayor of Melbourne 1959–1961.
  30. ^ Knight Bachelor, 1 January 1962, It's an Honour.
  31. ^ DSO, 30 December 1941, It's an Honour.
  32. ^ M.I.D. 1941,
  33. ^ M.I.D. 1942
  34. ^ M.I.D. 1944,

External linksEdit