Skip to main content
Palo Alto High School Library, Palo Alto Unified School District
Palo Alto, CA
Palo Alto HS
A dramatic facelift.
Library goes from dark and empty to high school hub.
Creating a centerpiece from an outdated shell
Built in the 1970s, Palo Alto High School’s library was dark, disjointed, and uninviting. Faculty offices and storage spaces crowded the building’s perimeter, leaving an echoing, two-story column in the building’s center to house the underutilized library. Working closely with Palo Alto High School staff and leadership, the team identified key goals to include: a classic feel with modern finishes and turning the library back into a hub of activity rather than a space to be passed by. The team envisioned a space that would support a wide variety of work styles and activities that featured updated technology, natural light, and a more functional, open layout with clear sightlines and improved circulation patterns.

Still contained within its original footprint, the modernized building is now a popular destination for students, housing four distinct program areas: the library, an adjacent gallery, college and career counseling, and guidance services.

HED introduced wood paneling and modern furnishings to add warmth and softness, unifying the interior and contributing to the perception of the new library as a cohesive space. A new mezzanine level with a dramatic spiral staircase now divides the space into upper and lower levels and displays the library’s old and rare books collections, and the addition of large windows and skylights now fill the interior with natural light.
HED transformed this underutilized space into a centerpiece and destination within the high school by adding large windows for natural light; a flexible instruction room; silent and group study rooms; a productivity center; reading nooks; and a mezzanine level, accessible via a dynamic spiral staircase.
Newly added acoustical panels to quiet the previously loud, echoing space.
Storage has been relocated, and in its place are silent study rooms, project rooms for individual and group work, and cozy, cushioned alcove reading nooks to support a variety of work modes and styles.
The library has been transformed to a hub of activity and a centerpiece of the campus.
This project shows how much is possible through a thoughtful, carefully designed renovation. The existing building was uninteresting — the design team transformed it completely. We have transecting walls, interesting volumes, and a dedicated entry that honors the library as the hub that it is.”
Rachel Kellerman
Palo Alto High School
Project Data
Palo Alto High School Library Renovation 2012-D0002-000
Palo Alto Unified School District
Palo Alto, Califronia
Architecture (Full Service)
$10.1 Million
    LEED Certified Equivalent
Project Team
Library goes from dark and empty to high school hub.
Palo Alto High School Library, Palo Alto Unified School District
Palo Alto, CA
A dramatic facelift.