Was born in Ankara, 1943. Graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of Middle East Technical University (METU) in 1965. Between 1965 and 1966 he worked as a designer at Prof. Hans Asplund's Design Office in Stockholm, Sweden. Between 1967-1973, he worked for the Construction and Design Department of Ankara University. In 1973, he established his private office.

He worked as student assistant in Middle East Technical University (1966-1967), taught design at Ankara State Academy of Engineering and Architecture (1971-1973), at Gazi University (1997-1998). He was a design critic of “Virtual Studio” (2000-2001) and since 2002; he works as part-time tutor and design critic at the “Basic Design Studio” of Çankaya University and teaches the course, “Ethics and Elements of Creative Act”. In 2005, he started to teach basic design (part time) at Girne American University, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. From 2016 on he has lectured at Başkent University.

In 1967 he became a member of the Chamber of Turkish Architects. In 1981, he became the member of the Association of Turkish Consulting Engineers and Architects (ATCEA), which he acted as a member of the board of directors between 1987-1992 and 1996-2000. He elected as the deputy president between 1996-2000 and in 2000, he was elected to the honour committee of the same association. In 2005 assigned as Honorary Member of Turkish Professional Architects Association and was elected as the president to the “Architectural Association 1927”.

During his education he was awarded with "Godfrey Prize" in 1964 and with the "Graduation Prize" of METU, Faculty of Architecture in 1965. He won the annual prize of the Turkish Prefabricated Concrete Association in 1991 and the Distinguished Service Award ATCEA in 1994. He was awarded with the Grand Prize (Lifetime Award- Sinan Award) of Turkish Chamber of Architects in 2008. Between 1974-1999 he won three first prizes; one second, one third and one unclassified prize, two mentions and one citation on nine architectural competitions he has participated.

He had several jury memberships. In 2004 he was elected to the grand jury to assign the National Prizes of Turkish Chamber of Architects. He participated in numerous seminars, symposia, conference, panel discussions; permanent, temporary, honour and advisory committees.

He had three published books, “Sadeleştirmeler” (Simplifications, 2000, Alp Press); “Sevgili Düşünceler” (Dear Thoughts, 2002, Architectural Society Publ.) and “Modern Sonrası Mimarlık Üzerine Notlar” (Notes on the Post-Modern Architecture, 2004, Chamber of Architects Publ.). His published work includes papers, essays, and articles on the profession of architecture as well as culture and art. There is a master thesis study on his works realised by Özlem T. Önen (A Study on Creative Act through the Subjective Qualities of the Architect M.Ziya Tanalı) in Middle East Technical University and a monograph study is published, “Ziya Tanalı” (edited by Z.Onur) that includes his major design works, lectures, essays and three comprehensive interviews in 2010.

In his private practice and designed more than 240 projects of which most are realized in Turkey and abroad (Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus).

In 2008, TMMOB Chamber of Architects, in their decision to award Ziya Tanalı, the Grand Prize (Sinan Award) within the scope of the 11th National Architecture Awards, stated their justification as follows:

In addition to his multi-dimensional contributions to the architectural profession as an architect, educator, critic, writer, and a manager, Ziya Tanali’s uncompromising attitude towards the quality of the architectural product throughout his professional life; his contributions to the establishment of the critical culture of architecture; the wealth of thought in the backdrop of his works; the fine detail quality; and his decisive attitude that prioritizes the wealth achieved with a lean architectural language, have been deemed worthy of the award.