A Woodbury University student and Glendora resident recently won a statewide award for his design of a new building for a field lab.
Mike Sotona, 30, received the California Architecture Foundation's Mel Ferris Award for his project Augmented Landscapes. The building he designed is for an environmental monitoring lab and interpretive visitor center for Santa Susana Field Lab in Los Angeles, according to a news release.
Not only did the project call for the Monrovia High School alum to design a building for the lab, it also involved remediating contamination at the site.
Sotona, who now lives in Glendora, created a wetlands system that catches water and helps keep it on the land. He also used plants in his design aimed at reducing contamination.
The fifth-year senior, who previously attended Pasadena City College, was one of around 80 entries in the competition, he said.
Sotona, a native of the Czech Republic who moved to America at age 15, said he has been passionate about architecture for a long time.
"It is always something that I wanted to do," he said. "You sacrifice a lot of your time. It's tough, but it is very rewarding."
Winning a statewide award has provided more motivation to keep working at it, he said.
Sotona said he liked that the project combined the aesthetics of design with sustainability.
"You have to have a reason for every move in your building," he said. "It has to be beautiful, but it has to work."
The jury who reviewed Sotona's design described it as "modest, beautiful and well resolved with a balance between not being overly heroic and recognizing its sensitivity to the site," according to a news release on the award.
Woodbury Professor Clark Stevens said Sotona has been consistent throughout the semester and described his work as "strong from beginning to end."
Stevens, who specializes in landscape architecture, said the sustainability aspect of a project is key.
"Fixing the land is a big part of what I do," he said. "It ultimately makes for a stronger project when improving the place."
Sotona's project stood out for that reason, Stevens said.
"I was pleased and surprised," he said of the award. "It's nice to see that the work was as good as we thought it was."