He was born on March 30, 1930 in Germany. His father was a violinist; Seligmann inherited a lifelong taste for music and the arts in general. Together with his family, he did not spend the latter part of the Second World War in concentration camps. However, he was forced to live in the woods, hiding from the Gestapo. Unfortunately, his mother and sister never returned from the camps. After the war he was reunited with his father, in Holland. From there he was sent to the US to live with relatives, in Groton, in upstate New York, a short distance from Cornell University in Ithaca. Seligmann received his B. Arch. degree from Cornell in 1955 and went on to do graduate study at the Technische Hochsschule in Braunschwieg, Germany in 1958-59. From there he returned to the US and taught as an Instructor at the University of Texas at Austin from 1956-58. It was there that he became part of a small group of faculty that was later nicknamed The Texas Rangers, a group that included Colin Rowe, John Shaw, Robert Slutzky and John Hejduk. After this group was dismissed from Austin Seligmann returned to Europe, where he taught as an Assistant at the Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule (the ETH), in Zurich, Switzerland from 1959-61. From 1961-74, he was an Associate Professor of Architecture at Cornell and an Associate Professor of Architecture at Harvard University. From 1976-1990 he was Dean and Professor of Architecture at Syracuse University. He was subsequently made Distinguished Professor of Architecture at Syracuse University. From 1990 to 1994 he was a Professor of Architecture at the ETH in Zurich.
In 1998 he was awarded The Topaz Award in Architectural Education jointly from the ACSA and the AIA, their highest award for an architectural educator. Selgmann was named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome (FAAR) in 1981. In 1994 he was Thomas Jefferson Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia, and held many visiting appointments in the US and abroad, including the ETH in Zurich, Kanto Gakuin University in Japan, Yale University, Harvard University, and Cornell University. In addition to serving as visiting critic, Seligmann wrote and lectured extensively on the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and other architects and issues.
Throughout his teaching career he maintained a practice and entered many competitions, including the invited competition, “Topography of Terror”, Berlin, Germany in 1993. His firm, Werner Seligmann and Associates, Architects and Urban Designers, was based in Cortland, New York. Launched in 1961, the firm placed in national and international competitions and work of the firm was exhibited often both in the US and abroad.
The architectural work of Werner Seligmann won two Progressive Architecture Design Awards, was illustrated on the cover of PA three times and was placed, or won, several national and international design competitions. Seligmann's work on developing housing prototypes for the New York State Urban Development Corporation in the 1970s and 1980s established his reputation in the area of housing. Beth David Synagogue in Binghamton NY (1963) was a significant synthesis of Wright and Le Corbusier. Seligmann also published numerous articles on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and modern architecture in general.