Proponent of modern architecture and partner in the firm Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, where he was hired in 1937; he would spend over 40 years at the firm, during which time he would design the Lever House, Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Washington, D.C.'s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
He received Bachelor's and Master's degrees from MIT. He was awarded a Rotch Traveling Scholarship that enabled him to travel Europe from 1935 until 1937, where he was mentored by Edward Durell Stone and Raymond Loewy.
He was awarded the 1980 American Institute of Architects' 25-Year Award for the Lever House and the 1988 Pritzker Architecture Prize.
His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants who were residing in Buffalo, New York, when he was born.
He only designed one single-family residence, the Travertine House, in which his family resided; it would later be purchased in 1995 by Martha Stewart.