This drawing, part of a series of eighteen drawings, watercolors, and collages titled Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture, pictures a walled city within the city of London. Tall barriers cut through the urban fabric, an intervention designed to create a new urban culture invigorated by architectural innovation and political subversion. Echoing the work of Italian radical architecture groups of the 1960s and ’70s, such as Superstudio and Archizoom, the series is a combination of vivid architectural imagery and “text/script,” in Koolhaas’s words, that incorporates narration and poetry. The dense pictographic storyboard, reflecting Koolhaas’s earlier stints as a journalist and a screenwriter, is intended to be read as a factual and fictional scenario for the contemporary metropolis. The title of the project alludes to West Berlin’s situation during the Cold War as a restricted enclave within East Germany, encircled by a forbidding wall—in effect, a prison on the scale of a metropolis, in which people sought refuge voluntarily.
Koolhaas presented Exodus as his thesis project at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1972. The project was a collaborative effort between Koolhaas, Greek architect Elia Zenghelis, Dutch artist Madelon Vriesendorp, and Greek painter Zoe Zenghelis. Initially submitted jointly by the team to an urban design competition, Exodus ultimately
served as a catalyst for the formation of their collective architectural practice, OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), in 1975.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)