Joseph Allen Stein was born in Nebraska on April 10, 1912. After completing his studies at the University of Illinois and Ecole des Beaux Arts at Fountainebleu, Stein attended the Cranbrook Academy in Michigan. He moved to California in 1938 to work with Austrian architect Richard Neutra. In 1942, he established his own office in San Francisco and built many modern residences, as well as progressive residential projects such as a 400 family cooperative housing project in Ladera, California.
In 1952, Stein was invited by Prime Minister Nehru to India to head the newly formed Architecture and Planning Department at Bengal Engineering College, Calcutta. He continued his practice in New Delhi for forty years until his retirement in 1995, incorporating local materials and architectural elements into the modern structural vocabulary. His most noted works are located at the Lodi Estate in Delhi, and include the India International Center (1959-1962), Ford Foundation Headquarters (1968), Ford Foundation Guest House (1972), UNICEF Headquarters (1981) and India Habitat Center (1993).