Between 1917 and 1919, Mart Stam completed a carpentry apprenticeship and then attended the Rijksnormaalschool voor Tekenonderwijs (State School for Drawing Instruction) in Amsterdam. He received his diploma as a drawing teacher there. Until 1922, Stam worked as a draughtsman in the office of architect Marinus Jan Granpré Molière in Rotterdam and joined the Dutch architect association of Opbouw. He went to Berlin that same year and worked in various architecture offices, including those of Max Taut and Hans Poelzig, until 1923. He was already represented in the area of International Architecture at the Bauhaus Exhibition in Weimar in 1923.
In the following two years, Stam worked for the Swiss architect Karl Moser in Zurich and Arnold Itten in Thun. Together with the architects Hans Schmidt and Emil Roth, he initiated the first Swiss avant-garde magazine – ABC-Beiträge zum Bauen (ABC Contributions to Building) – in 1924. In 1926, Stam returned to Holland and worked in Rotterdam at the architecture office of Brinkmann en Van der Vlugt until 1928. For the Werkbund Exhibition in Stuttgart-Weissenhof, he built a row house in 1927 and invented the cantilever chair that needed no back legs. Together with the architect Gerrit Rietveld, Mart Stam participated in the 1st CIAM Congress (Congrès Internationaux d'architecture moderne, International Congress for Modern Architecture) in La Sarraz as the representative for the Netherlands.
Starting in the winter semester of 1928/29, Mart Stam taught as a guest lecturer for urban planning at the Bauhaus Dessau. Parallel to his work at the Bauhaus, Stam was active as a freelance architect for Das Neue Frankfurt where he realised projects such as the new construction of a retirement home with Werner Moser. In 1930, he went to Moscow with the Brigade May and participated in planning the industrial cities of Magnitogorsk, Makejewka and Orsk, among other projects. On 14 October 1934, Mart Stam married the former Bauhaus student Lotte Beese in Moscow, but the marriage only lasted for about ten years.
Stam returned to the Netherlands in 1934 and established an office partnership with W. van Tijen in Amsterdam in 1935/36. He became an editorial member of the De 8 en Opbouw magazine. In 1939, Stam was appointed as the director of the Amsterdam School of Arts and Crafts (Instituut voor Artnijverheidsonderwijs), which later became the Rietveld Academy. Starting in 1948, he participated in the re-organisation of the State Academy for Artwork and the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. They were later merged into the University for Fine Arts. In 1950, he was transferred to become the director of the art academy in Berlin-Weissensee. In September 1952, he was banned from entering the premises and returned to Amsterdam on New Year’s Day of 1953. Starting in 1955, he ran his own office there. He began to increasingly retreat from public life beginning in 1966 and lived in Switzerland until his death in 1986.