Portlanders say goodbye to a local landmark—the rug at PDX
Author Margot Bigg Illustration Marc Rosenthal
OREGON – A crowd of youngsters stands in line outside a drab commercial building on the corner of Southeast 10th Avenue and East Burnside Street. Once known for sleazy flophouses, this strip of Portland, Oregon, is now home to indie concert venues and hip eateries. Tonight’s attraction, however, isn’t an indie band or a pop-up Lithuanian diner—it’s a carpet.
When Portland International Airport (PDX) began renovations this year, an early casualty was the airport’s 1980s-era rug, a blue-green, geometrically patterned expanse that had become a kind of local celebrity. For years, people had been Instagramming photos of their feet against it, and its removal generated a flurry of sad-face emojis, along with a range of commemorative items that include tote bags, sneakers and works of art.
Some of those works are on display at this exhibition, which was put together by the PDX Project, an outfit that makes things like doormats out of salvaged pieces of the rug. The show’s theme is suitably funereal: a casket upholstered with carpet-print fabric, an urn painted with the same design.
“We’ve been seeing this carpet since we were kids,” says a woman who is holding a bottle of Rogue PDX Carpet IPA, “and now it’s gone!” She’s waiting to have her photo taken with PeeDee, an in-demand rolled-up-carpet mascot. Another local woman has the carpet’s pattern tattooed on her back.
Some city institutions, meanwhile, have taken to handing out bits of carpet as official gifts. “Whenever I’m walking about town with a square to give to someone,” says Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Port of Portland, “I can feel penetrating eyes, wondering whether they could get away with a smash-and-grab.”