Karl graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia. After graduation, Karl was hired by the renowned firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), one of the world’s largest and most influential architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms, and two-time recipient of the prestigious Architecture Firm Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Institute of Architects. SOM recently designed the landmark One World Trade Center which opened last year in New York.
MY WORK WITH SOM INFLUENCED ME AS AN ARCHITECT AND ARTIST. I DEVELOPED A DEEPER APPRECIATION FOR THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF THE PRACTICE OF ARCHITECTURE AS WELL AS THE REALIZATION THAT MY ART AND ARCHITECTURE ARE INEXTRICABLY LINKED.
As an artist, Karl’s career as a sculptor can be traced to his architectural education at Virginia Tech under Professor Olivio Ferrari. Ferrari, a Swiss architect studied under Max Bill the famous Bauhaus sculptor and architect. In Carrara, Italy, Professor Ferrari, Karl and a few students visited the secreted carving site of Max Bill’s granite work ‘Continuity’ for the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany. Max Bill, a proponent of ‘Concrete Art’, influences and inspires Karl to this day.
After leaving SOM, Karl studied at the Marble Carving Institute in Pietrasanta, Italy. After two summers of stone carving and architectural stone fabrication instruction Karl was invited to teach in Italy at the Pietrasanta Studio under the guidance of Master Carver, Pasquali Martini. During this time Karl also worked at the SICEA Marble Company coordinating architectural stone fabrication. Karl’s studies in the medieval town of Pietrasanta were life-changing. Located in the province of Lucca, near the Italian Riviera in northern Tuscany, this “city of artists” has been famous for its marble since the 15th century, when Michelangelo became the first major figure to appreciate the beauty of its stone. According to the International Sculpture Center, “This carving mecca [Pietrasanta] attracts hundreds of artists from all over the world. Some spend a few months there every year to execute their own commissions and to improve their technical skills, while others go for shorter stays to check on a work in progress or to be involved in the finishing stage….There are more sculptors per square meter in this area of Tuscany than in any other place on earth.”
Karl spent nearly five summer/fall seasons working with SICEA Marble Company and The Pietrasanta Marble Carving Studio. When in the U.S. during this time, his work was exhibited at the Mars Gallery, Wood Street Gallery, and Longrove Fine Arts Gallery, among others. Karl also travelled to St. Etienne and Paris, France to participate in a city planning project with highly regarded architect, Ricardo Bofil (Taller de la Architectura).
I AM INSPIRED BY THE INTEGRATION AND INTERSECTIONS OF ART AND ARCHITECTURE, A SCULPTURAL BUILDING, AN ARCHITECTURAL SCULPTURE…’Music is Liquid Architecture, Architecture is frozen music.’ (Geothe)
In 1994, Karl established the Chicago Stone Carving Studio, which was housed in a 20,000 square foot former furniture warehouse at 3053 W. Grand Ave. According to the Chicago Tribune, “The Homer Brothers store featured three floors of salesrooms and manufacturing facilities for hand- crafted dining room and bedroom furniture. Now it’s the site of the Chicago Marble Carving Studio, the only one of its kind in the city. And the person to see is Karl Geckler….Geckler’s idea, to start a Chicago school based on an Italian model where artists receive technical assistance while they pursue their vision, took shape this year when a nearby marble company, for which he was working as an estimator, bought the shuttered building and set aside space for the studio on the top floor. It didn’t take long for the stone crowd to find it.”
THERE ARE MANY APPROACHES TO CARVING STONE; TWO EXTREME EXAMPLES ARE THOSE OF THE INUITS OF NORTHERN CANADA WHERE THE STONE DIRECTS THE CARVER AND THE OTHER EXAMPLE, THE ARTIST WHO ATTEMPTS TO IMPART HIS WILL ENTIRELY ON THE STONE. AS AN ARTIST AND ARCHITECT, I START WITH AN IDEA THEN RESPOND TO THE REALITIES, OPPORTUNITIES AND LIMITATIONS OF THE MATERIAL. THIS IN BETWEEN APPROACH IS WHERE I ENJOY LIFE AND MAKE DISCOVERIES.
Karl called working at the Chicago Stone Carving Studio a “…dream come true.” This passion led to some community service work, most notably at Gallery 37, where he instructed over 200 City of Chicago High School students how to carve stone and, more importantly, how to “….carve a better life.” This included work with the visually impaired, and physically challenged. Karl followed this stone carving instructional work with the design, in association with Guajardo Associates, of the official City of Chicago Prototype Fire Station.
Shortly thereafter, Karl was the architect and consultant for the creation of a proposed mountain carving and visitor complex similar to that of Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota: The stone carving of Alexander the Great in Asprovolta, Greece.
Karl’s more recent artistic endeavors include a lobby sculpture for Embassy Suites Hotel Chicago, along with a musical collaboration with Dremana Music, for whom he played guitar for over sixty live shows. In 2005, he contracted with GREC Architects, delivering a $5 million renovation of the LeMoyne School in Chicago, and helping to coordinate a $500 million golf course development for the new Abu Dhabi Golf Course Hotel in 2007-2009.
I AM CONSTANTLY ENGAGED IN THE STRUGGLE TO INTEGRATE THE VISIONS I HAVE, BE THEY SCULPTURAL, ARCHITECTURAL OR MUSICAL. THE BLESSING OF MY LIFE HAS BEEN THE REALIZATION THAT THESE DISCIPLINES ARE NOT DISPARATE, BUT THAT THEY INFORM EACH OTHER, ARE RELATED AND MAKE THE JOURNEY A JOY.
For the past five years, Karl has been a Project Manager for International Marble & Granite, coordinating the efforts of clients, fabricators, union installers, and structural engineers. During this period, he has also managed 30 Million dollars worth of properties for International Group Development, handling operations, renovations, code violations, and architectural/tenant/owner/city coordination. In these roles, Karl has managed and overseen over $11 million in total contracts, including work for the Millennium Tower, Dupage Hospital, 360 Lake Street, 505 N. State St, Walton Tower, Oakbrook Mall, Dearborn Federal Building, Arlington Medical Center, and Joliet Casino in Illinois, along with the Hollywood Casino in Toledo, Ohio. In 2015, Karl is rededicating himself to sculpture full-time and is interested in donuts.