In memoriam: PDX carpet

This winter we Oregonians are saying goodbye to the iconic carpet of the Portland International Airport.

Whether or not you’ve ever been to the airport here in Portland, most people are familiar with the pattern due to the fact it has been plastered all over social media sites when people are traveling or coming through the Pacific Northwest.

On Jan. 23 the removal finally began while many Oregonians watched with horror from their smartphones and home computers. Over 13 acres of the original carpet will be removed throughout 2015. To add insult to injury, the airport is replacing the old carpet with something that could only be described as the former’s less intelligent cousin who thinks he’s going to be the next Vincent Van Gogh.

The old carpet was classy with the right amount of art deco influence, conveying the fact the airport is a symbol for humanity’s technological advancements. The carpet design itself was actually based on how the runways look at night from the control tower, adding even more symbolic meaning to the carpet.

Quite frankly, the new carpet is really, really ugly.

While it seems the airport tried to stick to their Pacific Northwest roots by using greens, blues and reds versus the usual metallic and plain themes found in many other airports, it doesn’t really look that nice. It may give a forest-like feel to the airport in an attempt to highlight Oregon’s beautiful scenery and environmentally-conscious citizens, but what it makes up for in intention it lacks in delivery.

What could easily be mistaken for a bunch of modernist sailboats vomited out by the corpse of Pablo Picasso, the new design attempts to be more all encompassing and conceptual than it really is.

Steve Johnson from the Port of Portland claims the new design represents a bunch of stuff you’d normally find in an airport, such as airplane wings, the canopy over the airport as well as scenes from nature, like leaves. Overall, he said, it’s all up to your interpretation.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s quite a lazy answer.

I think one of the most interesting parts of this whole ordeal is the fact that an article like this one can even exist. The innate fascination with the PDX carpet shows how people can find a sense of community and meaning behind something as insignificant as an airport carpet.

While I appreciate its minimalistic qualities, I realize the personal connection goes beyond mere pleasing, aesthetic characteristics. In today’s post-9/11 world, many people have predominantly negative views of airports and air travel. Whether it’s a fear of flying, paranoia about terrorist activity, or distaste toward the TSA agents who seem to grope way more than they need to, there are many reasons people dread stepping into the airport.

For others, the airport is not simply a place between destinations, but a sort of emblem for exploration, new experiences and life changes. All throughout my life I’ve had a large fascination with airports. There has always been a certain romantic notion to them. There are so many people coming and going, some visiting family, some returning home from war, some leaving for good. There are people returning to wives and children, others leaving them; you find a wide array of emotions, stories, languages and final destinations. It’s an electric environment, one that encompasses a large portion of the human experience.

Despite the fact that I think the new carpet is one of the ugliest things I’ve seen in a long time—the thought that there will be nearly 13 acres of it is horrifying­—I know that even this new carpet will eventually hold the same sentimental value to future travelers as the current one does for me.

I wholly expect in 30 years or so when they change the carpet yet again to find people expressing the same negative feelings about the carpet changing. It’s only a matter of time before we see tattoos, t-shirts and Facebook fan pages for the new PDX carpet. I can also guarantee that the design change won’t change the Snapchats and Instagram pictures of people’s feet on the carpet prior to departure and upon arrival.

This will be a good lesson in nostalgia for everyone. No one particularly likes saying goodbye to something that holds sentimental value to them.

When I think of the PDX carpet, I think of the time I went to Belize, and the time I went to New York with my high school girlfriend, and when I went to Mexico this summer to visit some nuns. The carpet will remind me of some of the most important transitional periods of my life, but I know that if I get the chance to go to Russia this summer, the new carpet will remind me of my new and potential future experiences. Who knows, maybe when I go on my honeymoon I’ll see the new carpet, no matter how ugly I think it is now, and see some sort of beauty in it.

Don’t lament for too long, Portlanders. It’s only a matter of time before the ugly sailboats hold an equally important place in our hearts as the previous carpet did.