When I first walked into Saint Isidore’s church, I was a senior in high school, touring Kansas State. I remember the lobby space and the woman who greeted my friends and I, and I remember the color brown. That’s all.
As a freshman, I remember leaving studio on a green apple bike, and biking towards the church for an event. This was the first time I realized where the bike rack was, and that it was hidden in plain sight rather well.
I remember watching a homesick friend cry in the church pews that year, seeming to be enveloped by the wooden boards.
I remember sitting in the office of an old priest and listening to him lament about the loneliness of students on campus. The office was square, and the walls were the same color as his skin tone.
I remember watching an entire row of young, influenceable men standing to get into the communion line. Their statures were much larger than the pew could hold, and the small space between the bench in front of them made them turn sideways to shuffle out of the pew.
As a sophomore architecture student, I met the man I’m about to marry. Both of us being interested in architecture and Catholicism, we would walk from the first floor fishbowl studio to St. Isidore’s for nightly mass together. Those few thousand steps down the halls of Seaton taught me many things about him, and the steps we took together through the building at Anderson and Denison taught me more. He recognized space in different ways than I did, and he jumped through it. He didn’t always wear shoes in it. Light entered rooms in different ways when he was in them.
That sophomore year, St. Isidore’s changed. The priests were no longer the age of my grandparents, but younger than my parents. New souls were working there, in the offices, as accountants, and as missionaries. They changed the feeling of the space. The building started to feel a lot smaller.
I remember standing in the lobby at 10:30 PM after a nightly mass, not being able to see the door because too many bodies were in the space. This space, on Sundays, turned into rows of folding chairs to help with overflow seating. We didn’t fit anymore.
Junior year, while a friend and I were cooking in the St. Isidore’s kitchen, she showed me pieces of her story, her events, that I am still honored to understand. The building did that, it pulled out the beautiful and the terrible parts of your past, and gave you the opportunity to heal them or celebrate them. A bond was made leaning on that kitchen counter, one that would be reinforced over and over again in that very building.
That year, I remember being invited to lunch with two architects, our priest, some students, and the accountant. They wanted our opinions on a new church design. I never imagined one day I would work for one of the architects, but I’ll be walking into his office tomorrow at 8.
I remember sitting in front of the first row of pews, on the ground, staring at the tabernacle and feeling like nowhere else in the world existed. The marble on the walls in front of me looked like bacon, but they sounded like constant HVAC problems, and smelled like soft incense. The tile beneath me was cold but inviting, large and of course, brown.
Senior year, my maid of honor and I laid down in the middle of that tile and cried. She was leaving for a state she didn’t know, and I was going halfway across the world to study abroad.
I remember reflecting that the ceiling looked like the inside of a ship. This was purposeful, I was told, to resemble the way the building carried us through.
It carried me through many things.
Finding my vocation - in both academia and love
Needing to fill my common place book with sketches
Watching my father battle life threatening infections
Meeting countless faces that made me laugh until I needed to massage my face
Watching parents lose children, and children losing parents
Hours of studying during finals weeks- eating tons of snacks and catching lose bats
But I think the heaviest carrying the building did, was when it carried me through small events on ordinary days. In between classes, I would walk in through the back chapel doors, stop and listen, and then leave through the lobby, grabbing a piece of candy from a friend on the way out. These were the biggest events, the ones that I don’t always remember, but the ones that lead me to type this paper today.
The summer after my senior year, I watched my first concrete pour at St. Isidore’s.
Now, during my super senior year, things have gotten a lot more intense, spiritually and spatially.
I’m engaged now, and learning every day how to live ‘the real’ more intensely. I was shown a new series of emotions and events when the church was torn down.
It came down with a wrecking ball, and as I stood in it for the last time, I realized how hard it hit in love. All the space ever did was break down my walls.
It held me, carried my friends and I. It carried a community. The timing of the demolition felt rather perfect. The building seemed to know that in these past few months, the people it was carrying were finally stronger than it was. It was safe to fall down, because the people wouldn’t fall down with it. They’d walk across the street and use a new space while they needed to, and anxiously await its return. That’s exactly what’s happening.
Now, reflecting on the past 5 years of existing in those spaces, I’m seeing how inadequate and yet perfect it was. The heating and cooling really didn’t work when they were needed the most, like I’ve said before in this paper, EVERYTHING was brown, and there were countless dust collecting air vents that lived unapologetically in the center of the interior walls. But, the stained glass windows painted rainbows across the floors. The lights above the crucifix casted endearing shadows across His face. The seat in the center front row of the balcony was perfectly proportioned, and the light fixtures reflected off the marble, making the church look double its size. Glulam was king, no matter how poorly it reflected sound.
St. Isidore’s held a lot of events for me. If it were just one though, it was falling in love. Over and over and over again.
Kylee Mernagh is a 5th year Master of Architecture student. She enjoys the sun, preparing for marriage, and a good game of Spikeball. You can follow her cat on Instagram at @Patricia_the_black_cat, or look her up on RedBubble and buy a sticker to help pay for her wedding.