Klaus Herdeg was born March 4th 1937 in Paris, France to Swiss parents. Educated at Stiener Schools in both Switzerland and England, Herdeg went on to earn a Bachelor of Architecture degree at Cornell University. In 1965 Herdeg was awarded Cornell University's Eidlitz fellowship with which he traveled extensively throughout northwestern India producing measured drawings of monumental architectural complexes. This work would later be compiled and produced into a traveling exhibit and book titled Formal Structure in Indian Architecture.
Herdeg worked as an architect in both Europe and the United States, becoming a licensed architect in New York State in 1970. The majority of his career, however, was spent in academia. Herdeg began work as a professor at Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art and Planning in 1966. At Cornell, Herdeg witnessed a period of turmoil climaxing with the lighting of a burning cross outside Wari House, the subsequent Willard Straight Hall Takeover by members of the Afro-American Society in 1969 and the presumed arson of the Africana Studies and Research Center in 1970. Resigning from Cornell in response to the firing of four untenured faculty members on ideological grounds, Herdeg was recruited by Dean James Polshek to join the faculty at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in 1973.
Before commencing his teaching duties at Columbia, Herdeg traveled to Iran and modern day Uzbekistan with funds garnered through Harvard Graduate School of Design's Wheelwright Prize to study Islamic architecture. Herdeg's work in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union culminated in another traveling exhibition and book titled Formal Structure in Islamic Architecture of Iran and Turkistan published in 1990.
At Columbia University, Herdeg taught a variety of design studios as well as courses on Indian and Islamic architecture that proved to be popular with students. In 1974 Herdeg was selected by the Landmarks Conservancy to consult on a project for the preservation and adaptive reuse of the Federal Office Building, also known as the Federal Archive Building, in Greenwich Village. Herdeg's work for the project would later be published in 1976 in a book titled Working Paper 1: Creative Analysis for the Reprogramming of Landmarks.
While a professor at Columbia, Herdeg inaugurated an exchange program for students with Tianjin University that began in 1982. The program derived from an unsolicited invitation Dean Polshek received from Tianjin University regarding the idea of an architectural exchange between the two universities. Polshek delegated the responsibility of developing and organizing the program to Herdeg, who in 1980 had traveled, as part of an expedition headed by the Agha Khan, to Kashagar and other sites in Mainland China. Through his travels Herdeg developed an interest in concession era Chinese architecture producing a number of large drawings of important early-twentieth century buildings in Tianjin. In 1984 Herdeg was made Chairman of the Division of Architecture and a year later his book The Decorated Diagram was published.
Klaus Herdeg died on February 21, 2009 in New York City.