Early life and education
Forster grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey, with his father, George, a neurologist, and his mother, Alice, a pediatric AIDS and hemophilia clinician. He attended the Elisabeth Morrow School and went on to graduate from the Dwight-Englewood School in 1995, and returned there in 2008 to give the commencement address. He then attended Wesleyan University, graduating with honors in 1999 with a BA in Art and Architectural History. His bachelor's thesis, "Theoretical Realities," studies the impact of computer-aided design (CAD) on the fabrication of form by looking at the work of Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry.
After college, Forster worked for several years in New York City before moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and matriculating at Harvard Graduate School of Design. He received his Master's in Architecture in 2006; his master's thesis invented a vertical urban upward campus whose goal was to create spatial diversity while maintaining homogeneous unit quality.
Forster currently resides in New York City.
Forster's television career began in 2005 when he sent in an audition disc to the Discovery Channel in response to a Craigslist ad. Discovery and Powderhouse, a production company based in Somerville, Massachusetts, ultimately hired him to film six episodes of Extreme Engineering, which was in its third season as a traditional, voiceover-narrated documentary series. According to Joel Olicker, president of Powderhouse, Forster was hired to be the on-camera host on the strength of his "geek chic" and his ability to talk.
Once shooting began, producers were surprised but reportedly not displeased to discover that Forster had a serious fear of heights. Discovery Channel executive producer Julian Hobbs explained, "We didn't want to replace voice-of-God [narrator] with physical god. We wanted to replace god with human."
Forster said of his Extreme Engineering experience, "There was no preparation. Everything was improvised. Mostly I would just walk up to people and say, 'What are you doing? Can I try it?' Then most of the time I would fail at whatever task it was, which adds comic value and also shows how incredibly skilled these workers are."
The new episodes, with Forster as its curious, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable on-camera host, were a success for the Discovery Channel, which subsequently gave Forster his own show, Build It Bigger. The first season of Build It Bigger, for which Forster traveled everywhere from New Orleans to Shanghai to Istanbul over the course of a ten-month shoot, aired on the Discovery Channel from July to October 2007. For its second season, beginning in April 2009, Build It Bigger moved to the Science Channel, another channel owned by Discovery Communications. Build It Bigger quickly became the Science Channel's highest rated show.
In the hiatus between filming season one and season two of Build It Bigger, Forster filmed a miniseries called Build it Bigger: Rebuilding Greensburg. The miniseries chronicled the struggle of a small town in Kansas not just to rebuild itself after a devastating tornado, but to reinvent itself as America’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum-certified, eco-town. Rebuilding Greensburg aired in November 2008 on Planet Green, a new Discovery Communications network dedicated to sustainable living. Forster also served as sustainable design correspondent for Planet Green.
In 2008 and 2009, Forster hosted the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
On September 11, 2011, executive producers Forster and Steven Spielberg released on the Discovery Channel the film they made about the reconstruction of Ground Zero: "Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero."
During his years at the Graduate School of Design, Forster worked for two summers (2004 and 2005) at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, an internationally renowned architectural firm in New York City. As Forster has said, "I love doing the show, but I didn't sweat for four years not to be an architect." In 2007, while on the road filming Build It Bigger, Forster started his own architecture firm, Danny Forster Design Studio. At first restricted to Forster's laptop and an ever-changing "office" of hotel rooms, the firm is now located in Brooklyn, New York, with a full-time staff and ongoing projects in Brooklyn, Manhattan, New Jersey, Chicago, and Michigan.
The firm's inaugural project was the first ever LEED Gold certified home in Northern Michigan, which was completed in 2008. The home, a lake house in Omena, Michigan, has since been featured in the Architectural Review, Architectural Record, and Traverse Magazine.
While filming the second season of Build It Bigger, Forster began his academic career, returning to the Harvard University Graduate School of Design as a member of the faculty. He taught an upper level graduate architecture studio about sustainable design. The course, entitled "Puntacana: The Modern, the Vernacular, The Sustainable," looked at a resort in the Dominican Republic owned by Oscar De La Renta, Julio Iglesias, and labor lawyer Theodore Kheel, that has been involved in a 30-year effort to develop the island sustainably. The course considered how the resort could organize and develop sustainable housing that would not be predicated on a golf course; the student work will be published in the January 2010 Archivos de Arquitectura Antillana. Forster taught the course in spring 2010 at the Syracuse University School of Architecture.
Lectures and public appearances
Since 2006, Forster has lectured nationally and internationally on architecture, education and sustainability to audiences as large as 10,000 and as small as a fifth grade class in Northern New Jersey. Forster was the keynote speaker at the AVEVA International Symposium for Engineering Information Technology (ISEIT) in 2006, delivered executive seminars at The Studley Commercial Real Estate Going Green Conference, and hosted the American Council of Engineering Companies' awards gala in 2007. He was the keynote speaker at the 2008 Solid Works World Expo, the largest 3-D conference in the world. That same year he keynoted Construct 2008, an architecture/engineering conference, and spoke at the Copenmind conference in Copenhagen.
- From 2000 to 2002, Forster performed stand-up comedy in New York City clubs such as Gotham Comedy Club, Stand Up New York, and Caroline's Comedy Club.
- In 2001, Forster founded UrbanFilter, an Internet real-estate start-up designed to enable young people to find apartments in major cities. The company was acquired in 2002.
- "Extreme Engineering". Retrieved October 22, 2009.
- Weiss, Joanna (19 February 2006). "Laying the groundwork for a TV career". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 23 October 2009.
- Gewertz, Ken (8 June 2006). "'Extreme' transformation". Harvard University Gazette. Retrieved 23 October 2009.
- "Build It Bigger". Retrieved October 22, 2009.
- "Build it Bigger: Rebuilding Greensburg". Retrieved October 22, 2009.
- "Michigan Lake House, USA by Danny Forster". The Architectural Review. 3 August 2009. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
- "LEED-Gold House". The Architectural Record. 3 July 2009. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
- Lively, Janet (17 August 2009). "Danny Forster's Cool, Green House". Traverse Magazine. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
- "Harvard University Graduate School of Design: Faculty". Retrieved 22 October 2009.
- "Danny Forster, Host of Discovery Channel's 'Extreme Engineering' Series, to Keynote AVEVA's ISEIT Americas Conference" (Press release). AVEVA. 27 September 2006. Retrieved 22 October 2009.