Diploma as engineer, Technische Hochschule, Dresden, Germany, 1910. Doctor Engineering Technische Hochschule, Berlin, 1915.
He served as the chief city planner of Berlin from 1925, and most of Berlin"s Modernist Housing Estates, now recognized as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site, were constructed under his leadership. In 1924 he founded the building society Gehag, which was responsible for seventy percent of Berlin"s housing built from 1924 through 1933, amounting to many thousands of residential units. Wagner was more planner than design-architect, and few individual building designs are directly attributable to him.
His role was parallel to Ernst May"s role in Frankfurt-am-Main: the leader of a large-scale effort to standardize building requirements, rationalize construction practice, organize industrial suppliers and labor unions, all in the effort to mass-produce housing.
In his German projects Wagner was a frequent collaborator with German landscape architect Leberecht Migge. He was expelled from the Deutscher Werkbund in 1933 and decided to leave the country.
He spent three years in Turkey in exile. Among Wagner"s students at the GSD were William Wurster and Catherine Bauer.
But already by 1940, his relationship with Gropius was strained.
Wagner complained of Gropius abandoning the underlying social principles of modernism, and practicing modernism only as a style. On the other hand, Wagner"s purism may not have been serving him well: in 1944 he produced a new city plan for Boston which called for a complete razing and restructuring of the city"s entire downtown area. Wagner took American citizenship in 1944.
He served as professor at the GSD until retirement in 1951.
Wagner"s son Bernard Wagner was also an architect.
Tall, angular, loyally Socialist, and uncompromising in his opinions, Wagner was educated at the Technical University of Berlin and worked as draftsman in the office of planner Hermann Muthesius, before being appointed the City Building Commissioner for Schöneberg in 1918 (now an inner-city area of Berlin).
As the Nazis came to power through the early 1930s, Wagner fell under increasing pressure and suspicion as a committed Social Democrat and longtime member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
Married Gertrud Sandow, April 29, 1911. Children: Irmgard Wagner Schüle, Bernhard, Sabine.