His most well known design is the Police Headquarters at Russell Street (1940–1943), giving Melbourne “its first Gotham City silhouette”. Percy Edgar Everett’s signature style reflected and often combined a range of sources including American Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and European early Modernism, such as Brick Expressionism, the German Bauhaus and even Russian Constructivism, drawn from magazines and his two trips abroad. He was also adept at designing in historicist, domestic and rustic styles when aproropriate.
Percy Edgar Everett was born in Geelong, Victoria, Australia. His father, Joseph Everett was a blacksmith from England. Joseph established a coach-building business, as well as building business later on, for which Percy assisted with detailed aspect of the buildings.
Everett received his early education in Ashby Public School. The two subjects that drew most of his attention during his time at Ashby were drawing and piano lessons. It was there he first tried his hand at sketching. Among his early subjects were ships, figureheads, and sailors, suggesting the kind of environment he was born into.
His interest in drawing, and his experience in the building industry, led him to architecture as his first career choice, with music as a second choice. Everett gained experience with Geelong architect W. H. Cleverdon and then became the first architecture student to enrol in the Gordon Technical College, under the dynamic leadership of George R. King, who established architectural section at the college. Everett graduated in 1906 and began his career as a graduate architect.
Everett first worked at the Geelong Harbour Trust (1907–1910), where he planned and supervised his first structure, a wool store, and also designed the Edwardian-style "Sailors Rest" building on the Geelong foreshore. He then worked for the firm of Seeley & King, forming a partnership with them two years later. Seeley, King & Everett was his first private practice.
The practice was taken over by the firm of Laird and Buchan while Everett was on a trip to Britain and Europe in 1913. In 1914, when still connected with Laird and Buchan, he opened a separate practice in Melbourne, but since there was a shortage of architectural work due to the First World War, he took up the post of principal of the Brunswick Technical School (1916).
He also continued his association with Laird & Buchan, with whom he designed the elaborate bandstand in Johnstone Park, Geelong, which was constructed in 1919. That same year, the association also designed the Edwardian-Baroque Peace Memorial, on the axis of the bandstand, as well as redesigning the park in a more formal manner. The revamped park and memorial were completed in 1926.
In 1930, like many other Australian architects during the Great Depression, he undertook a world tour including the US and the UK, but unusually also included the USSR. In 1932 he was appointed headmaster of Brighton Technical School.
Two years later, in 1934, Everett was appointed Chief Architect of the Victorian Public Works Department (PWD). This was an extremely important position, making him responsible for the design of the State's public buildings. This included new state offices, courthouses, police stations, hospitals (including tuberculosis (TB) sanatoriums and mental hospitals), schools, colleges, and even some leisure facilities on public land. Much of the output was additional buildings or wings expanding existing institutions.
The designs produced by the PWD, where he insisted on absolute control over the designs, immediately changed from the polite simplified red brick Georgian of the 1920s to mostly dramatic modernist compositions. The first buildings to be completed by the office under his direction included the Streamline Moderne Drouin Primary School, and the Dutch Expressionist Yallourn Technical School (demolished), both opened in 1936.
The PWD went on to create a range of modernist designs for numerous high-profile public buildings, with a large number built between 1936 and 1941, only slowing down as World War II restrictions came into force. Essendon Technical School (1939), Camberwell Court House (1939) and the William Angliss College (1940) are considered amongst the best of this period, and are all on the Victorian Heritage Register. Influences from Dutch 1920s modernism, the German Bauhaus and even 1920s Russian Constructivism can be discerned. Notable designs influenced by the US skyscraper style include the outstanding Russell Street Police Headquarters (1940–43) and the smaller skyscraper-style Ballarat State Offices (1941). Interestingly, his most richly decorative Art Deco designs were for courthouses, notably the Shepparton Courthouse and Wangaratta Courthouse and State Offices, both of 1938.
Everett, like all interwar architects, could also create historicist or domestic styles when it seemed appropriate. Examples include the rustic log cabin-style Yarra Bend Golf House (1936), the Mediterranean influenced Geelong Court House (1938), and the Collegiate Gothic Melbourne University Chemistry School (1938).
In 1945 Everett went to North America to study recent trends in public architecture, but after WWII the style of buildings produced under his direction did not change. As public buildings were given priority, numerous public buildings with his distinctive flair, such as the TB wing at Hamilton Base Hospital (1945), Caulfield Institute of Technology (1947), and large TB Sanatoria at Heatherton and Greenvale (both 1946, now demolished) were major projects in the post war years. By then however, architectural progressives were calling for a more truly modern approach, as distinct from Everett's devotion to dynamic effects.
One of many governmental projects the PWD executed at this time was the dramatic Department of Agriculture annexe to the 19th century Italianate State Government offices, built in 1948 (demolished 1997). The building housed sections for photography, films and radio, as well as a small cinema, because film and radio were seen as significant new methods of helping to educate and inform farmers. It also showed his interest in dominating older buildings, while at the same time responding to their layout. His additions and alterations at the Gordon Technical College (1951) in his native Geelong also display this approach.
One Everett design however did display some true innovation at this time; while still not reflecting the postwar International Style he developed a new prototype for primary schools based on hexagonal classrooms. Built in cream brick, with large timber window-walls and clerestory windows, they were designed to provide the largest floor area with a minimum of materials, and the ability for all pupils to be close to the teacher. Extant examples remain at North Balwyn (1950), Moorabbin West (1950), Red Hill Consolidated (1951), and North Coburg (1952).
Percy Everett retired as chief architect in 1953, but continued in private practice until the late 1950s.
Everett married twice. On 11 June 1924 he married Georgina Buchanan Arthur (née Boyd), a widow, at Mentone, Victoria. Following her death in 1956, he married Mavis Delgany Stewart (née Richards), also a widow, at Brighton, Victoria, on 26 June 1956. He had two step-children. Percy Everett died at Brighton Beach, Victoria on 6 May 1967.Yarra Bend Golf House, Yarra Bend Park, Fairfield, Victoria (1936)
Drouin Primary School, Drouin (1936)
Melbourne Polytechnic Building B, Preston Technical College (1937)
Geelong Court House, Geelong (1938)
Wangaratta Court and State Offices, Wangaratta (1938)
RMIT Buildings 6, 5, 7 & 9, Bowen Street, RMIT, Melbourne (5 & 9 1938, 7 in 1948, 6 in 1955)
Essendon Technical School, Essendon, Victoria (1939)
Camberwell Police Station and Court House, Camberwell Road, Camberwell (1939)
Melbourne Zoo Entrance and Fence, Royal Park (1939)
Frank Tate Building, Melbourne University, Parkville (1940)
State Government Offices, Ballarat, Victoria (1941)
State Accident Insurance Office, 412 Collins Street, Melbourne (1941)
William Angliss Food Trades, Latrobe Street, Melbourne (1941)
Russell Street Police Headquarters, Melbourne (1940–1943)
Nurses Home and Ward Block, Heatherton TB Sanatorium, Heatherton, Victoria (1946)
Greenvale TB Sanatorium, Greenvale (1946)
Caulfield Technical College extension, Nepean Highway, Caulfield East (1947)
F.G.Scholes Block (Wards), Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital, Fairfield, Victoria (1949)
Gordon Technical School, Textile College, now part of Gordon Institute of TAFE, Geelong (1951)