Alan Colquhoun was born in Esher, England, on June 27, 1921. He spent his childhood in Southsee, where he attended day school from 1927 to 1929. After that he was sent to St. Cyprians prep school in Eastbourne. In 1930, the family moved to Claygate, Surrey. After prep school Colquhoun went to Bradfield College (1934-38). Colquhoun began his architectural training at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1939, completing three years of the five-year course, getting an intermediate exam. Some of his projects from Edinburgh are preserved in the archive.
In September, 1942 Colquhoun was drafted into the Royal Engineers and sent to India in 1943. In 1944 he was wounded on the Burmese border. After 6 months of rehabilitation, he was sent back to Roorkee, where he spent the remainder of his service in an office job. In Decemeber 1946 he was officially demobilized but permitted to travel extensively around India for 3 months. These travels are extensively documented in the archive, through photographs, drawings, notes in notebooks, and correspondences to his parents, and were remembered by Colquhoun as "one of the best things he had done in his life."
Upon returning to England, Colquhoun resumed his architectural studies, earning a diploma from the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London in 1949. Upon completion, he worked at the London City Council for 6 years designing social housing. After a short stint with Candilis and Woods' firm in Paris in 1955-6, Colquhoun joined Lyons Israel and Ellis in 1956 in London before starting his own studio in 1961 with John Miller. He maintained his involvement with the practice until 1989, having mean while establishing a solo practice in 1988. The archive holds a small amount of materials from C+M, but does not hold any documentation of Colquhoun's work as a sole practitioner.
In parallel with his architectural practice, Colquhoun embarked on an academic career. He taught at the AA from 1957 to 1964. In 1966 he went to Princeton School of Architecture in New Jersey as a visiting critic for a semester, which soon translated into a two year teaching post until 1968, when he went and did the same in Cornell. In 1970, Colquhoun went back to Princeton. In 1974, he took a full time teaching job at the Central Polytechnic (Now University of Westminster), where he taught for four years. In 1979 and 1980, Colquhoun was invited back to Princeton for each Spring semester. In 1981, Colquhoun accepted a teaching post at Princeton. In 1991, Colquhoun transferred to emeritus status before retiring from teaching in 1996. He stayed at Princeton to finish his work on Modern Architecture, returning to London in 2002. Colquhoun died in London in December, 2013.