Napkin Sketch Contest

Architectural Ornamentation: The Art of the Detail
ALA's 2023 Napkin Sketch Contest

Winners Announced! View them here.

For most of history, ornamentation has been a big part of architectural design. With the modern movement, less became more, and ornamentation became secondary. Or did it? 

What is architectural ornamentation? What does architectural ornamentation mean to you? What is the art of the detail?

This year's participants submitted 5-inch by 5-inch sketches and our panel of experts judged them based on creativity, originality, and technical skill.

Prizes were awarded and the winning sketch was displayed in an exhibit at the Bridgeport Art Center in Chicago! The exhibit is called: ornament IS – Arguments On Ornament in Design.

View the 2023 winning sketches.

2023 Panel of Judges:

Chair: Howard Hirsch, ALA, Principal, Hirsch MPG
Howard M. Hirsch is the founder of Hirsch MPG LLC , offering Architectural and Planning Services to a wide range of clients on a variety of project types. As Managing Principal of the firm, Howard is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the firm’s operations and output. He takes a personal responsibility and an active role in all projects, whether large or small. He has designed numerous award winning projects and fondly remembers his days of sketching while living and studying in Versailles.

Joshua Mings, AIA, Founder and Principal at Aggregate Studio
Josh Mings, AIA is the Founder and Principal of Aggregate Studio focused on residential and community-based projects. He is committed to providing dignified architecture for everyone, allowing teams to create the best possible projects through teamwork, critical engagement, and consensus-building. Josh strives to positively impact cities, housing, and residents with dignified design, previously winning several local, state, and national awards. He gives back to the profession and community, serving on AIA Chicago’s Board of Directors, design juries, mentoring the next generation of architects, and leading the national NEXUS mentorship program.

Lenore Weiss, Founder and Principal, Lenore Weiss Studios
Lenore Weiss, NCARB, AIA, LEED-AP, and founder of Lenore Weiss Studios LLC, has a keen interest in all the ways the built environment can make a positive difference in people's lives. In that vein, she remains an advocate for "environmental awareness" on every level, from a larger ecological perspective to the careful attention to detail that successfully shapes a client’s own supportive personal surroundings. Her ongoing educational research strengthens her dedication as an architect and designer to incorporate a humanistic approach and empathic practices into designs that bolster clients' wellness and ability to flourish.  

Stephen Wierzbowski, FAIA, Wierzbowski, PLLC
Stephen Wierzbowski, FAIA is an Architect, Designer, Artist and Educator with diverse experience in a wide range of project types at locations throughout the US, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean. Specialties include a wide spectrum of project types including Environmental Branding, Retail Architecture, Interior Architectural Design, Fixture and Exhibit Design. He has collaborated with historians, filmmakers, graphic designers, industrial designers, writers, computer programmers, painters and others. Steve’s art is featured in numerous public and private exhibits and collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago. His sketches are featured on the web site, In December of 2014 Wierzbowski completed a short film, “Two Sketches” by Dan Manas, In 2018 he co-curated with Ed Keegan an exhibit called “OUTside THE PRACTICE. 2019 Steve co-curated another exhibit called “OUTside THE PRACTICE; MONUMENTS AND PLACES OF MEMORY. This fall, he is co-curating with Josh Mings “Ornament Is: Arguments on Ornament in Architecture and Design.
View Previous Winners
This is the third iteration of ALA's Napkin Sketch Contest. View details and winners from previous contests below.

2021: Building Bridges
View the 2021 winning sketches.

2020: Treehouse
View the 2020 winning sketches
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