TOTEM XL - PUBLIC ART MONUMENT - 150x150x500 cm - Sand-blasted Stainless Steel - CODAworx

TOTEM XL – PUBLIC ART MONUMENT – 150x150x500 cm – Sand-blasted Stainless Steel

Submitted by Michel Abboud

Client: D.I.F.C. (Dubai International Financial District)

Location: Dubai , United Arab Emirates

Completion date: 2023

Artwork budget: $260,000

Project Team


Michel Abboud






Jean-Baptiste Simon



Anthony El Kik



Mohammad Kali

Emma Steel


Totem XL stands as a bridge between disciplines, where art meets architecture, as a physical manifestation of the digital in a world where digital imagery is the icon of our new collective belief system. The piece reflects on the blend of cultures and of traditional and modern elements throughout Dubai’s urban landscape. Not only does its composition refer to the pixels that construct our daily imagery and references but also to new modular building strategies. Furthermore, its structure and placement recall historical indigenous ceremonies where communities, in this case the digital generation, gather around a symbol of lineage. Abboud prompts audiences to consider the role of technology today, and how it continues to shape our relationship with ourselves and one another. Totem XL was featured in the 2023 exhibition “Tales Under the Gate” in Dubai’s International Financial Centre (DIFC). The title refers to the importance of storytelling, passed down across generations. The event marks architect Michel Abboud’s first public art installation in Dubai, following his work on two of the city’s most prominent architectural projects: AVA and One at Palm. Abboud is known for his architecture around the world, particularly for his work on 45 Park Place in N.Y.C.


Integrating artwork into the plaza at D.I.F.C. welcomes international visitors to the public mixed-use space within a district known for its corporate strengths, the Dubai’s International Financial Center. Providing a focal point for visitors, Totem X.L. conveys an identity for the center as a monolith for business and finance, which is today communicated in pixels, synthesized and transported globally within seconds. Totem X.L. embodies our modern daily interpretation of imagery into a traditional artistic monument. The sculpture's height is an observation on the importance of digital imagery in our lives, and its materiality and enlarged pixels a critique on technology's idealization and our growing reliance on it.
Additionally, Totem X.L. creates a sense of playful engagement with the space. Allowing the community to actively reflect on its message, it is placed outdoors amidst nature and in-person social interactions, highlighting the importance of breaking away from screens to recharge in one’s larger environment. The striking scale and parametric volumetry of the 5-meter-high sculpture creates a memorable space that encourages visitors to return, and enjoy the space.


Michel Abboud's parametric sculptures are created using a combination of digital design tools and traditional fabrication techniques. The process typically involves the following steps:

1. Conceptualization: Abboud begins by developing a concept for the sculpture, which may be inspired by a particular theme, idea, or form.

2. Digital design: Abboud uses parametric design software, such as Rhino and Grasshopper, to create a 3D model of the sculpture. The software allows him to input parameters, such as size, shape, and texture, and manipulate them to create a variety of different design options.

3. Iteration: Abboud iterates on the design, making adjustments and refinements to the parameters until he is satisfied with the final form of the sculpture.

4. Fabrication: Once the design is finalized, Abboud uses a combination of traditional fabrication techniques and digital fabrication tools, such as CNC milling and laser cutting, to create the final artwork. He often works with a team of craftsmen and fabricators to realize the sculpture, using materials such as wood, metal, and acrylic.

5. Installation: Abboud installs the sculpture in its intended location, which may be a public space, gallery, or private collection.

Additional Information

Michel Abboud is an award-winning Lebanese born architect, artist, and designer based in New York. He is the founder and principal of the architecture firm SOMA, with worldwide high-profile projects in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Dubai, Beirut, and Doha. In addition to his work in architecture, Abboud is also known for his artistic projects, exploring the intersections between art, architecture, and technology. His large scale parametric sculptures are the result of 15 years of research, utilizing advanced digital tools and scripting software to generate complex forms. Despite the advanced digital tools used in their creation, Abboud's sculptures are built by hand, highlighting the artisanal nature of his work. He has exhibited his work at various museums and galleries around the world, including the Opera Gallery in Beirut, Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, and the Venice Biennale. His awards and recognitions include the Architectural League of New York's Emerging Voices Award, the Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction, and the Middle East Architect Award for Architect of the Year.