Wigley received both his Bachelor of Architecture (1979) and Ph.D. (1987) from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Mike Austin was his doctoral supervisor. Wigley left Auckland in 1986 and taught at Princeton University, from 1987 to 1999, serving also as the director of Graduate Studies at Princeton’s School of Architecture.
In 1988, Wigley co-curated with Philip Johnson the MoMA exhibition Deconstructivist Architecture. The exhibition featured the works of seven architects, who were already well-known at the time for a style of architecture that involved in various ways "deconstructing" conventional notions of architectural convention: Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Peter Eisenman, Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi, Rem Koolhaas and Coop Himmelbau. The curators linked the works to the philosophical notion of Deconstruction, as espoused by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, as well as the art-architectural historical precedent of Russian constructivism, and several works from this period were displayed in the exhibition. However, of the architects only Eisenman and Tschumi acknowledged the connection to Derrida and only Hadid to Constructivism.
In 2005, Wigley founded Volume Magazine together with Rem Koolhaas and Ole Bouman. A collaborative project by Archis (Amsterdam), AMO Rotterdam and C-lab (Columbia University NY), Volume Magazine is an experimental think tank focusing on the process of spatial and cultural reflexivity. The magazine aims to explore "beyond architecture’s definition of 'making buildings'" by presenting global views on architecture and design, broader attitudes to social structures and created environments; and embodies progressive journalism.
Wigley was awarded the Resident Fellowship, Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism, 1989; International Committee of Architectural Critics (C.I.C.A.) Triennial Award for Architectural Criticism, 1990; and the Graham Foundation Grant, 1997.