Born Giuseppe Pogatschnig in Parenzo (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) he joined the Italian army at the onset of World War I and changed his name to Pagano.
Continuing the trend, he changed the name of La Casa Bella to Casabella when he became the director of the essential design magazine in 1933.
Pagano worked on the master plan for the ill-fated 1942 Rome Esposizione Universale which was halted due to the outbreak of World War II.
In 1943, after making contact with members of the resistance, Pagano was captured and imprisoned. He escaped in 1944 only to be recaptured months later.
He completed many notable architectural projects including the Palazzo Gualino (with Gino Levi Montalcini), the Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi and the Summer Hall for the V Triennale di Milano with Ettore Sottass senior among others.