Ulrich Franzen was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1921 and immigrated to the United States in 1936. He graduated from Williams College in 1942 and received a Master of Architecture degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1948. After graduation, Franzen went to work for I.M. Pei (1917-) and then left to open his own firm, Ulrich Franzen and Associates, in New York City. His firm established itself through educational, corporate, and residential commissions. Franzen's work reflects a dedication to social context and to "the use of powerful forms." Franzen himself stated, "Architecture is the servant of its time and significant designs are experiments of an era. The buildings that are designed become footprints of our own socio-cultural history, reflections of the ideas and concerns of an era, and not those of an individual."
Among his numerous honors are the Arnold Brunner Prize given by the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Louis Sullivan Award from the New York Chapter of the AIA, the Thomas Jefferson Award from the University of Virginia, and an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Williams College. Franzen has been a frequent lecturer and has served as a visiting professor at a number of universities including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.