A Brief History of the PDX Airport Carpet

What's the story behind Portland's most beloved rug?

By Cari Johnson December 20, 2013

There is no other carpet in the world that has the cult following that the Portland Airport International airport's enjoys. It has its own Instagram tag (#pdxcarpet), no fewer than three related Twitter accounts, not to mention a growing collection of socks and t-shirts

So what's the story behind it?

Designed by SRG Architects in 1987, the iconic carpet was a big change for the Port of Portland. In those days, PDX employees were sick of hearing the click and clack noises that repeatedly smacked the hard terminal floors. The airport was ready to welcome locals home with cozier floor.

SRG principal John Schleuning (who helped design the carpet) recalls visiting at least five different airports before buckling down to design the PDX carpet

“Airports were just like subways!” says Schleuning. “They were very utilitarian.”

Earth tones (think beige and oatmeal) were standard for airport carpets in the 80s, Schleuning says. Indeed, he says one airport chose its dull carpet color to blend in with fallen cigarette butts.  

The SRG team wanted the carpet to be northwest to the core, so they settled on blues and greens early on in the design phase. The final pattern corresponded to Portland's intersecting North-South runways, as seen from the control tower.

By the early 90s, acres of the new carpet were installed and Port of Portland welcomed travelers with a new carpet, and an array of local shops offering Oregon products without exorbitant prices. 

“We understand that people have an emotional connection to the carpet,” says Annie Linstrom, a spokeswoman for the Port of Portland.

According to Linstrom, the airport has received a large response from the Portland community concerning the future of the original carpet. The Port is looking into recycling options, explained Linstrom, and may give away carpet squares as a sentimental keepsake for locals. 

“People love coming back to Portland,” says Schleuning. “The carpet represents home.”

Still not enough of the carpet? Read our Ode to the Carpet from the December 2013 issue, and get a peek at the new carpet

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