Born in 1931, Bernard Kohn immigrated to the United States in 1940. He studied at Syracuse, Columbia, and at the University of Pennsylvania (under the direction of Louis I. Kahn).
He later taught in the Urbanism Department of Yale University. He worked in the United States and in India, following in Patrick Geddes’ footsteps, before returning to France in 1969, where he worked at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs as a pedagogy consultant.
Together with the sociologist Michel Herrou and the architect Georges Maurios, he founded a multidisciplinary agency called “Environment and Behavior” where they created a constructive system made of modular components that allow for modification by the inhabitants.
In collaboration with C.N. Douady, he is the catalyst of the Experimental Workshop at Cergy-Pontoise from 1970 to 1973. Multidisciplinary center for professional and continuing education in architecture and urbanism, it is a place for meetings around the exploration of ideas relating to the urban environment, with university students, elected officials, professionals, administrative personnel, citizens...
This experiment continues with the UP8 in Coupvray and Quincy-Voisins, where “public workshops” are organized in 1976-1977. Participative architecture is at the heart of each of Bernard Kohn’s projects: Ecole Decroly in Saint-Mandé, self-run housing on rue du Buisson St Louis in Paris, Gennevilliers and Yzeure and urban studies in Alençon, Auch...
In 1976, he creates his architecture studio in Paris and focuses on the public facilities, where he introduces the notion of “participative pedagogy”.
Then, in collaboration with Bruno Mougel and Jean-Pierre Vaysse, he founds Bernard Kohn & Associés in Saint-Mandé, which becoms Ar-thème in 2000.
From 1980 to 2011, he worked on the Cultural Action Center in Saint-Avoid ( (1982-1985), the French embassy in Mexico City (1985-1995), the courthouse of Clermont-Ferrand (1986-1992), the Royer Bendélé complex in Gennevilliers (1987-1991), the renovation of the Vieux Colombier theater (1990-1994), the architectural design guide and six stations for Paris Metro line 14 (1990-1998), the courthouse of Montpellier (1992-1996).
From 1999, together with Jean-Pierre Vaysse, he designs the architectural charter of Turin’s VAL series of stations, then rehabilitates the Roland Garros airport in Saint-Denis on the Réunion Island.
In 2000, following the completion of the Ours crossroads project in Béziers, he openes a workshop in the old factory town of Villeneuvette near Clermont-l’Hérault, while continuing his activities in Saint-Mandé.
He write “Musée vivant de la Ville – Maison de Ville” for DAPA of the French Ministry of Culture.
In 2002, he co-founded the citizen's forum "la Manufacture des paysages", an "association" in the Hérault region in order to promote the old royal factory in Villeneuvette. This association continues to act today in participative urban planning workshops in southern France.
In 2008 2009, in India Bernard Kohn organizes a multidisciplinary workshop at CEPT “Ecological Potential for the 400 kilometers of the Sabarmati river basin.”