A patchwork of influences goes into any architectural project; a recipe that usually entails an amalgamation of client brief, site context, monetary budget, architectural vision and climatic conditions. There is a satisfying defiance in what resulted when Justin Mallia Architects took these elements of Oak Grove and rolled them up into two homes with the exact same floorplan.

Shrugging off the weight of radical expectation, Justin Mallia Architects created something that, quite simply, works. Oak Grove House – two identical, white, rectangular houses in an eclectic suburban Melbourne context – is a cost-effective, environmentally sensitive, subtly layered surprise of a development whose complexity deepens with each effort taken to uncover it.


The two homes are placed at ninety degrees to one another, which opens up space for a garden while drawing the large neighbourhood trees into its fold. Although each and every surface is slicked in white, Justin Mallia has proven that there are shades in monochromaticity. Each house has the same folded front façade; within this pattern, different facets reveal glazed or solid surfaces, and a variety of protruding or openable features.


“With each façade designed to be suitable at two different orientations, the resulting appearance from the street is a series of differently folded shifting patchwork elevations, rather than two identical buildings alongside one another,” says the architect.

Humble and inexpensive materials are used throughout, unashamedly (un)manipulated to let their inherent attributes show clear. Both inside and out, the structure is framed with timber; this frame is left exposed in places to amplify the various textures, rhythms and scales of the buildings. The subtly rich façade is a ménage of transparency, gloss and a weathering of coatings.


“Between a detailed client brief laden with ideas about visual style, and the site located in an eclectic Australian suburban context, the architecture negotiates a meaningful contemporary response within highly saturated physical and conceptual parameters,” says the architect.