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The lowdown on Portland International Airport’s famous carpet

Gone for good... or is it?

An aerial view looking down at two peoples' feet as they stand on teal-colored carpet with multi-colored designs.

Did you even visit PDX if you didn’t take a photo like this?

Photo by Travis.Thurston

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Carpets may have seen their heyday come and go, but there’s still one design we won’t let the wheel of progress sweep under the rug: the mythical teal expansenay, masterpiece — that is Portland International Airport’s original carpet.

To fully understand this champion of all carpets appreciated by countless pilgrims to our fair city who, quite literally, traveled thousands of miles to set foot upon its wondrous fibers, we must turn back time… to the year of our floor, 1987.

Field of carpet dreams

The Port of Portland knew it needed something to reduce the noise created by travelers passing through the hallowed — but very hard — halls of Portland’s airport. It reached out a hand, seeking the assistance of SRG Partnership in its quest.

SRG’s John Schleuning visited several airports, wrangling inspiration to draw upon, before deciding to veer sharply off course from the earthen brown hues many airports were using at the time.

Pretty in teal

In a stroke of textile genius, John chose two colors running through the veins of all Pacific Northwesterners: blue and green. The tones’ marriage resulted in the birth of something new, something… exotic. Teal. Breaking up this vast, blue-green wilderness were geometric shapes representing an air traffic controller’s view of the airport’s north and south runways at night.

Today, the souls of our shoes miss its distinctly 1980s flavor.

A shoe selfie of two people standing on dark green carpet with patterns of blue, yellow, and red geometric shapes.

Modern shoefies at PDX just don’t hit the same.

Photo by PDXtoday

‘Stand by me’ - PDX carpet

Alas, the carpet’s cult following, which included tens of thousands of shoefies with the Instagram hashtag #pdxcarpet, couldn’t save it from the decay wrought by time and foot traffic.

Stained, patched, and fraying, the 13 acres of once-lustrous material that made guests feel more special than any red carpet ever could were ripped up and replaced with the deeper green pattern in use today. The project began in January 2015; a roll of the old carpet was given googly eyes and crowned the grand marshal of the Rose Festival’s Starlight Parade four months later.

Back to the future

Rose City’s doormat may be gone, but its beloved pattern lives on in the hallways of our hearts (and on lots of tourism merchandise). Pro tip: You can still find it on the floor in the “infinity room” inside the Tender Loving Empire store in Concourse E, near Gate E5.

The best part? The old carpet design will make a comeback when the new main terminal opens in 2024.

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