Born in Red Bank, N.J., Kamin is a graduate of Amherst College, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts with honors in 1979, and the Yale University School of Architecture, from which he received a Master of Environmental Design in 1984. He holds honorary degrees from Monmouth University and North Central College, where he serves as an adjunct professor of art. He has lectured widely and has discussed architecture on programs ranging from ABC's "Nightline" to WTTW-Ch. 11's "Chicago Tonight." The University of Chicago Press has published two collections of his columns: "Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago" (2001) and "Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age" (2010). He also wrote the commentaries for "Tribune Tower: American Landmark," a guide to the newspaper's neo-Gothic skyscraper published in 2000.

Kamin is the recipient more than 30 awards, including the Pulitzer, which he received in 1999 for a body of work highlighted by a series of articles about the problems and promise of Chicago's greatest public space, its lakefront. Among his other honors are the George Polk Award for Criticism (1996), the American Institute of Architects' Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievement (1999) and the AIA's Presidential Citation, conferred in 2004 in appreciation of the "rhapsodies and scoldings" that have brought architecture to the attention of Chicago's public. He has twice served as a Pulitzer Prize juror.