Ernst Ziller was born on 22 June 1837 in Oberloessnitz in Saxony. In 1855 he was accepted by the Royal School of Architecture at Dresden Technical University from which he graduated in 1858. During his studies he worked for a period of time in Vienna in the office of the Danish architect, Theophilos Hansen. Their meeting would decide his career. A few years later, in 1861, Ziller came to Athens as Hansen's representative, and undertook to supervise the construction of the Athens Academy.

He soon became integrated into Athens society and settled in Greece. He married, had a family and remained here until his death in November 1923. During his first years in Greece, Ziller travelled throughout the country studying the archaeological treasures. After the expulsion of King Otto, work on the Athens Academy was interrupted and Ziller returned to Vienna for a short time.

In 1868 he returned to Greece and in 1872 was appointed Professor at the School of Arts, the predecessor of the National Technical University of Athens. Orders for work came pouring in. Ziller had finally achieved success. The patronage of the king and the fact that he had been employed to draw up the plans for the summer palaces at Tatoi, at Petalious and later the Crown Prince's Palace attracted a large number of the wealthy bourgeoisie to employ him for the building of their mansions and summer houses. The Schliemann, Stathatou, and Pesmatzoglou mansions and the villas of Thon, Sygrou, and others are works of his. At the same time he designed a series of public and municipal buildings and churches. The National (Royal) Theatre of Athens, the theatres of Patras and Zakynthos (now demolished), the museum at Olympia, the market at Pyrgos, and the church of St. Luke constitute only a small part of his achievements. Up to the present day the full scale of his work is not yet known.

Ziller plan, south view of the building

Not only did Ziller design more than six hundred buildings, but his work constitutes a milestone in contemporary greek architecture. His architectural work, which extends from the second half of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century, is marked by its creativity and its sense of artistic freedom. His initially classicist style, which was characteristic of the period of mature Athenian neoclassicism, changed to eclecticism and romanticism especially in the architecture of private homes. In State buildings though, the classicist Greek spirit was preserved, while at the same time in church architecture, an attempt was made to maintain the Byzantine tradition.

Ziller is undoubtedly the architect who represents the period of King George I, and his work had an enormous influence on his time.