Neil Denari was born in Fort Worth, Texas and studied at the University of Houston (B Arch 1980) and Harvard University (M Arch 1982). After graduate school, Denari worked as a technical intern in Paris (La Courneuve) for Aerospatiale Helicoptres (now Airbus). In 1983, Denari moved to New York where his work explored the technical and formal impact of technology on architecture. While there, he worked as a senior designer at James Stewart Polshek and Partners, exhibited his speculative work at numerous museums and galleries, and in1986, at 29, was the youngest member of 40 Architects under age 40. Also in 1986, the Cooper Hewitt Museum purchased a drawing by Neil Denari, the first of seven major museums to have his work in their collection. The others include the Museum of Modern Art New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Heinz-Carnegie Collection in Pittsburgh, the FRAC Center in Orleans, France, and the Museum of Modern Art in Sydney, Australia.
Neil Denari shifted his practice to Los Angeles in 1988 and began Cor-Tex Architecture, which later became Neil M. Denari Architects (NMDA) , Inc. in 1998. In the late 1980’s Denari’s work began to achieve international recognition, most notably through his 3rd place finish in the Tokyo International Forum Competition. This launched his now 22 year association with Japan, a country where he has taught and lectured on a regular basis. While teaching at the Shibaura Institute of Technology in 1990, Denari lived for 8 months in Tokyo. His experiences there, like those of Paris, have been a constant reference on phenomena as diverse as urban morphology and fashion design. His first project built in Japan (1996), the Interrupted Projections exhibition space, has now been followed by a series of bank projects for the Mitsubishi Trust Financial Group and other experience economy projects. With NMDA, Denari has focused on a diverse range of design endeavors that look at manifold issues pertaining to architectural speculation.
Since 1986, Denari has had a distinguished career as a teacher. He is a tenured Professor in the Architecture and Urban Design Department at UCLA. He has also taught at Columbia University, the Bartlett, UC Berkeley, Princeton University, and the Harvard GSD.
Neil Denari is the author of two bestselling books, Interrupted Projections (TOTO 1996) and Gyroscopic Horizons (Princeton 1999). In 2002, he was given both the Richard Recchia Award and the Samuel F.B. Morse Medal for architecture from the National Academy of Design in New York for distinguished work in the field. In 2008, Denari received an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 2009, he received a Fellowship from the United States Artists organization.
In 2011, he received the Los Angeles AIA Gold Medal. It is the organization's highest honor for an individual architect. He is a registered architect in New York and California, a member of the American Institute of Architects, and has given more than 230 lectures around the world on his work.
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