Front of Highland Hills Branch Library

A prized beacon in an economically distressed neighborhood

Highland Hills Branch Library
City of Dallas Public Works and Transportation Department
Dallas, TX

An existing, but beloved, Highland Hills branch library had outgrown its size and availability of services that could be offered to the local community. The City of Dallas selected KAI to perform full design services for a new 18,000 SF state-of-the-art facility located on a 8-acre parcel in southeast Dallas.

The vision for the new $4.5 million branch library was to integrate 21st century developments into a bigger and better library facility while improving service to the community in the areas of collections, technology and facilities. Area residents do not typically have computers in the home, meaning library computers are in heavy demand for school studies and research, job searches and general web-surfing. KAI’s design team utilized innovative planning and design concepts to achieve the community’s vision and provide maximum return on the City’s investment.

KAI presented three design schemes representing rectangular, curvilinear and zigzag geometries. Each scheme incorporated reading and book stack areas for tots, intermediates, teens and adults as well as a centralized area with computers for access to the Internet. Features such as self-checkout stations, a sales and transactions area and staff support areas were incorporated in each scheme. Additionally, each scheme included a multi-purpose area with conference and classroom spaces for use by the community.

The library was sited to take advantage of sun angles and sits on the highest point of the site. The project is LEED Gold, utilizing a geothermal system with forced air fed under a raised floor in the circulation space for ultimate flexibility.


Architecture, Building Information Modeling, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Plumbing Engineering, Fire Protection Engineering

“The community really deserves this new branch, which is twice as big with more space to collaborate, learn, entertain and serve the neighborhood.”

Jo Giudice
Director, Dallas Public Library

The Impact

Equitable design results in community pride.

KAI's programming and conceptual design process involved meeting with key stakeholders, the local elected official and residents. The resulting initial design included a curved floor-to-ceiling glass wall running the length of the library circulation area looking out onto a well-landscaped natural area. During the course of design, designers repeatedly heard that the building would be vandalized, or bullets would shatter this expanse of glass. But KAI's philosophy of equitable design regardless of the economic composition of the surrounding community was persuasive, and the glass wall remained. Despite initial concerns, the library hasn’t experienced any vandalism or broken windows. The Highland Hills Branch Library has been deeply embraced by the community, and other library systems have looked to the facility for inspiration and best practices. It is the crown jewel in the Dallas Library system, recognized regionally as one of the best branches in the city. Highland Hills has hosted political debates, lectures, community organizations, dramatic performances and even musical events, creating transformational neighborhood pride with patrons and the community.

Project Recognition

LEED Gold Certified