Portland Airport staff in the late 80s would never have imagined that over 20 years later, a cult following would beset their airport; specifically, the carpet. What has surprised the Port of Portland (PDX) and locals alike is how this simple floor covering has turned into a phenomenon.
How does a piece of carpet become so well known? We put out a tweet one afternoon with just a small glimpse of the design and within seconds, numerous people had correctly guessed what it was, and they were not all Portland locals either. What makes this carpet so special?
When PDX installed the current carpet, they likely would have been shocked to see the situation 20 years later. As the airport plans a replacement program, the current carpet has become an icon for the local people and for AvGeeks around the world.
SRG Partnership Inc, a local Portland design firm, teamed up with the Port of Portland to design this iconic carpet. The design represents an abstract rendering of Portland Airport. Don’t see it? Think from up high, so high in fact that it represents what an Air Traffic Controller, in the tower, would see of Portland Airport at night.
That simple design and thought process has now changed so many peoples’ lives. “It’s an emotional attachment for the people of Portland,” said Annie Linstrom from the Port of Portland/PDX. “They feel attached to the carpet because it tells a unique story about their lives.”
In 2010, as social media grew, the love for the PDX carpet was also growing. So much so that it has evolved from more than just people talking about their love for it; they can wear it too!
It started with socks, a fairly simple thing, but it has grown so much! Now you can buy coasters, bike helmets, water bottles, coffee mugs, iPhone cases, and even t-shirts! One person took it a step further and got a tattoo to match the design! I wonder if this is heading towards fanaticism, but we are #AvGeeks, so surely it is not much of a stretch.
The social media is not limited to just Instagram or Facebook. The current carpet has it’s own Twitter account (which funnily enough has more followers than our own Associate Editor Blaine Nickeson), but not to be outdone by the “new” carpet, which has one of its own. How many airport (or any other) carpet boast they have multiple fan-based social media accounts?
But the carpet can’t last forever — at some point it needs to be updated and changed. The plans to do that started back in 2012. A new design was chosen with the help of another local Portland company (ZGF) and this time, PDX did extensive testing to make sure that it not only is it durable, aestheically pleasing and functional, but is AvGeek approved.
The new design is fairly similar to the old, but has been refreshed (think of it as the 737 MAX to the 737 NG). This time the design incorporates not only parts of the airport (the runways and the iconic road deck) but also the surrounding areas. Mood enhancing colors help calm travelers, while the rest of the colors tie into the natural landscapes, green spaces, and possibly a flight path or two. The airport has over 14 acres of carpet to replace (the equivalent of 10 Portland city blocks) and when the replacement program begins in late 2014/early 2015, it could take almost 12 months to finish. Who knew carpet would be so complicated right?
Portland Airport Interior with Existing Carpet on the Left & New Carpet on the Right (Click to Enlarge) – Images: Port of Portland/PDX:
When the new carpet is all fully installed and PDX travelers start getting used to the new design, what will they do with all the old carpet? The airport will either reuse, recycle, or re-purpose the leftover, salvageable carpet, with an aim to keep all of it out of landfill (which sounds just like Portland, right?).
Since you can already purchase socks, hats, t-shirts, and much more at the shops at the airport (they can be purchased at the Made in Oregon store, before security) maybe some people will be lucky enough to get their own piece of PDX history. I wouldn’t mind a piece myself.