Rowan Moore’s best architecture of 2017

By Rowan Moore

Postmodernism returned in style, Liverpool's Welsh Streets were saved, but Grenfell Tower defined the year

• Observer critics' reviews of the year in full

If you're talking about architecture, or housing, or construction, in 2017 it's hard to look past the charred stump of Grenfell Tower. This image will remain in the collective mind, as it should, long after the year's novelties have faded. The best that can be hoped for from the disaster is that it will alert public and politicians to the parlous state of housing in Britain – and all parties are now at least talking about large-scale public housing programmes, which not so long ago was politically unthinkable. It might also be noticed that a decades-long tendency to reduce risk, by spreading it among building contractors, project managers and an expanding panoply of consultants – and by marginalising architects – did not, in this case, reduce risk.

In other news we found out once again that vast wealth can produce splendiferous buildings, whether the digital billions that paid for Foster and Partners' visible-from-space Apple Park in Cupertino, or the petrodollars (and offsets from arms sale) that created the Louvre Abu Dhabi. In both cases the architects opted for a gigantic circle, cosmic emblem, symbol of eternity, as their dominant motif. In London, Bloomberg's billion-pound new HQ opened, also by Fosters, civic-minded and imperial at once.

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