Neal Adair Prince (b. 1921) was born in Corsicana, Texas to a family involved in the oil and gas industry. Graduating from Rice University in 1943 with a degree in architectural engineering, he was drafted in World War II, where he served in the 39th Army Corps of Engineers until 1946. After working both in architecture and theatre—as a playwright, director, and set designer—he landed in New York, where he worked for architectural firms specializing in healthcare and hospitality design.
In 1958, Prince made a fateful career move to the architectural firm of William M. Ballard. Ballard had recently won a contract to design the interior of Pan-Am’s Phoenicia Inter-Continental Hotel in Beirut, and assigned Prince to accompany the hotel’s renowned architect, Edward Durrell Stone, to Beirut to plan out the interiors. At the Phoenicia, Prince would pioneer what would become his signature approach to interior design: marrying local culture, materials and the work of artisans to create interiors evocative of the color, climate, and vernacular traditions of each foreign destination, housed within the sleek modern sensibility of the Inter-Continental hotel’s architectural design. Prince would begin the design process with a “walk through” that included walking the streets of the given city to get a feel for the culture and local businesses.
In 1961, Prince was hired to work full time as the Director of Interior and Graphic Design in Pan-Am’s Hotel Development Services Division. Over the course of nearly 25 years, Prince would go on to lead the team responsible for the interior design and branding of more than 135 Inter-Continental hotels. He has received numerous awards, including Institutions Magazine award for outstanding Interior Designs for his work on Intercontinental Genève, in Switzerland and the Siam Inter-Continental in Bangkok, Thailand.