Portlanders have a tradition when visiting their airport: taking a picture of their feet. It’s not to show off their shoes, but rather, what’s under them. They are documenting the famous PDX airport carpet.
The PDX carpet is a loud, decidedly 80s geometric pattern over a vast sea of teal. The carpet, it is said, is based on the way the runways and lights look from the air traffic control tower; another story has it as representative of the air traffic control radar screen.
Wherever the design comes from, one thing is for sure: the carpet is very, very beloved. There are even signs in the airport now saying, “Tweet your feet!” and an official #pdxcarpet hashtag.
The carpet has inspired some Portlanders, including Emma Milkin, to get a tattoo of the design.
Another Portland resident, Jeremy Dunn, created PDX carpet socks.
Now, shops at the PDX airport sell all kinds of wares emblazoned with the carpet pattern: t-shirts, coffee mugs, throw pillows, tote bags, stickers, key chains, bike helmets. There’s even a PDX Carpet IPA from Portland brewery Rogue.
It is beloved by locals and having buy-in from the airport itself. But even so, the carpet’s days are numbered.
The carpet is being replaced.
Work crews use a machine called a Panther to tear up the old carpet. With thirteen acres to clear, the airport projects that the old carpet will be out by November 2015.
Four 1000 square yard pieces will be made available to businesses or individuals with a plan for how to keep the pattern alive.
But in the PDX airport, the carpet will disappear.
No, the carpet will not be replaced with the same beloved pattern. The decision to replace the carpet was made back in 2008, before all the foot selfies and #pdxcarpet.
The new design is reminiscent of the old carpet, but it’s a darker green and has a more intricate pattern. The busyness of the new design actually helps hide dirt and other wear and tear. In fact, there’s an extra-busy version of the new design that PDX will lay in higher-traffic areas.
So far, Portlanders are far less enthusiastic about the new floor pattern. You just can’t manufacture a cult following for an airport carpet. It has to happen on its own.