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A very different sort of yard sale

Design Yard Sale, organized by students and alumni from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, features artwork and other pieces by some big names, with proceeds going to two social-justice organizations

Denise Scott Brown, "Las Vegas," 1968courtesy Design Yard Sale

Even during a pandemic, July is a classic time for yard sales. A bargain is still a bargain; and wearing a mask is a small price to pay for, well, a small price to pay.

Many bargains are available at Design Yard Sale. But no mask-wearing is required, since it’s being conducted online. Go to www.designyardsale.org/auction. Organized by a group of students and alumni from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the sale began July 1 and ends July 31. The GSD is outside Harvard Yard, but close enough that Design Yard Sale can be considered sort of a Harvard Yard sale, too.


Frank Gehry, "Study for Beekman Street Housing"courtesy Design Yard Sale

On sale or up for auction are artworks and design pieces by some big names. Some of them are very big, including the architects Frank Gehry, Denise Scott Brown, and Billie Tsien. Items include architectural sketches, furniture, handbags, and signed books. Every week, a new set of items has gone online, with the final additions coming this week.

Billie Tsien, "Study for a Mosaic"courtesy Design Yard Sale

The most popular items so far have been a chair from Virgil Abloh’s Markerad IKEA line, to be signed and illustrated by the designer; a painting by British architect Sam Jacob; and blueprints of the Vanna Venturi House, by Brown’s husband, the late architect Robert Venturi (as of Friday afternoon, one was still left).

“We had a surprisingly easy time with getting the donors involved and found the design community in general to be extremely supportive with the event,” wrote Grace Chee in an email on Friday. Chee, one of the sale’s organizers, is pursuing a master’s degree in architecture at the GSD. Some participants, such as Abloh and Brown, were reached “through personal and professional connections,” Chee said. Others simply responded to “cold emails.”

The motivation for most yard sales is that the sellers want to clear out the garage or basement. The motivation for Design Yard Sale is very different. All proceeds go to two nonprofit social-justice organizations: the Bail Project addresses mass incarceration by raising funds to pay bail for low-income offenders; and Colloqate Design works to promote spaces that foster racial, social, and cultural equity.


“We have raised $70,000 so far,” Chee said, “but are aiming for $100,000 by the end of the sale, on Aug 1.”

Craig Dykers, "Queens Public Library sketch"courtesy Design Yard Sale

Mark Feeney can be reached at mark.feeney@globe.com.