Duany was born in New York City but grew up in Cuba until 1960. He attended The Choate School and received his undergraduate degree in architecture and urban planning from Princeton University (1971). After a year of study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, he received a master's degree from the Yale School of Architecture (1974).
In 1977, Duany was co-founder of the Miami firm Arquitectonica with his wife, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk; Bernardo Fort-Brescia; Laurinda Spear; and Hervin Romney. Arquitectonica became famous for playful Latin-American influenced modernism. The firm's Atlantis Condominium was featured prominently in the opening credits of Miami Vice.
Duany Plater Zyberk & Company (DPZ) was founded in 1980 in Miami, Florida. DPZ participated in the international movement called the New Urbanism, which seeks to end suburban sprawl and urban disinvestment. The firm first received recognition as the designer of Seaside, Florida and Kentlands, Maryland. It has completed designs and codes for over three hundred new towns, regional plans, and inner-city revitalization projects. He is also a representative of New Classical Architecture.
Duany is a co-founder and emeritus board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), established in 1993. He has co-authored five books: Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, The New Civic Art, "The Smart Growth Manual", "Garden Cities" and "Landscape Urbanism and Its Discontents". Duany has worked as visiting professor at many institutions and holds two honorary doctorates.
With his partner, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, he has been awarded several honorary doctorates and awards including the Vincent Scully Prize by the National Building Museum in recognition of their contributions to the American built environment., the Brandeis Award for Architecture, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Medal of Architecture, the Arthur Ross Award in Community Planning, the Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture, the Society of American Registered Architects International Award, and the Albert Simons Medal of Excellence, among others.