Rowan Moore: best architecture of 2016

By Rowan Moore

It was a good year for council housing, African American culture and Herzog & de Meuron – and a bad one for garden bridges

• Observer critics' reviews of the year in full

The best news in the not-entirely-cheerful year of 2016, architecturally speaking, is that the finest new housing is being built by local authorities. Projects such as Alison Brooks's Ely Court for the London borough of Brent, or similar works in the boroughs of Camden, Hackney and elsewhere, are showing that council homes do not have be the grim monoliths of legend. They are well considered and humanly scaled, with hospitable shared spaces, balconies you might actually want to sit on and other small but significant details. As central government is showing glimmers of realisation that volume housebuilders cannot meet the country's needs alone, developments like these are part of the answer.

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