Neski grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey. She received her undergraduate degree from Bennington College in 1949. During her third semester of her undergraduate studies she became aware of the nearby Robinson House in Williamstown, Massachusetts designed by Marcel Breuer and was inspired by what domestic architecture could be. She received her Master of Architecture from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design that was at the time directed by Walter Gropius. She finished the three-year program in two years and found being a woman in the program an “oddity.” One professor, Hugh Stubbins, did not take her seriously and during desk crits would completely “ignore [her]”. “He didn’t even look at [her] drawings.”
In 1952 Neski began working in the office of José Luis Sert. She worked on urban plans for Bogotá and Havana. She met Julian Neski while working at Sert's office, her future design partner and husband. They were married in 1954. They moved to Marcel Breuer's office where she designed plans for a factory in Canada, a house in Connecticut, and a library for Hunter College. In 1959, they collaborated on the American National Exhibition in Moscow with an American design team that included Peter Blake, Buckminster Fuller, Charles and Ray Eames.
They started their firm in the early 1960s and designed over 35 houses, 25 of which were in the Hamptons, NY. Their practice was one of equals with both fully participating in all aspects of the practice. Their practice became known for their modernist vacation homes. The Neski's maintained a small office in part to be able to better manage all aspects of the work, having a direct hand in each project. Barbara Neski taught at Pratt Institute between 1978 and 1992. She became a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1985.
- "Weekend Utopian: A Conversation Between Alastair Gordon and Barbara Neski (MArch '52) - Harvard Graduate School of Design". www.gsd.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2019-10-27.
- Gordon, Alastair (July–August 2007). "Woman in the Dunes". Dwell: 156–165.
- Gordon, Alastair (2004-01-18). "Julian Neski, 76, Who Brought Modernism to Beach Houses". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-27.
- "Fellows Directory". AIA New York. Retrieved 2019-10-27.
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