He was the son of the architect, designer and professor of Jan Koula (1855–1919). His father was one of the most productive architects in the Czech lands of the late 19th and early 20th century. Koula graduated in architecture at Prague Polytechnic (Pražská Polytechnika). He was one of Prague's first architects working with the international modernism and also worked as an architectural theorist and publicist. He taught at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (Vysoká škola uměleckoprůmyslová) in Prague, where he achieved the rank of professor, and at the Technical University (Vysoká škola technická) in Bratislava. He has published several books in which he promoted modern architecture and influenced its acceptance by Czech society. He was a member of the group Devětsil.
He signed his works to distinguish him from his father of the same name as Jan E. Koula, often referred to in the literature as "Jan Emil Koula". However, the abbreviation E. has never been explained, and even Koula's descendants do not know its meaning. It is certainly not Jan (John) the Evangelist, for he was baptized as Jan Křtitel (Baptiste) Koula .