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






Charbel Farajallah



Jean-Baptiste Simon



Anthony El Kik



Mohammad Kali

Emma Steel


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

“Tales Under the Gate” is a public sculpture exhibition in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). The title of the show refers to storytelling and the way that stories are passed down from generation to generation. This event marks 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 well known for his work in architecture around the world, particularly for his contributions to 45 Park Place in New York. Totem XL stands as a bridge between Abboud’s disciplines, where art meets architecture. Totem XL is a physical manifestation of the digital in a world where digital imagery has evolved into the icons of our new, collective system of belief. The piece is meant to symbolize the convergence of cultures and the blending of traditional and modern elements in the city of Dubai, and its geometry recalls indigenous ceremonies through the very act of gathering around an icon of belief while prompting audiences to consider how our religious dedication to technology continues to shape our relationship with ourselves and one another.


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. Firstly, the sculpture enhances the aesthetics of the space, providing a focal point for visitors. Totem X.L. conveys an identity for the center as a monolith for the nature of business and finance, which is today formulated by pixels, synthesized and transported globally within seconds. Totem X.L. embodies our new modern interpretation of visual imagery, universal to all economic sectors into a traditional artistic monument. The sculpture is an observation of the importance of digital imagery in our lives by its height, and a critique of its idealization by the sculpture’s materiality, and enlarged pixels.
Additionally, Totem X.L. creates a sense of community and playful engagement with the space. Its placement outdoors where nature and social interactions take place, establishes 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, especially in the case of events.


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 physical sculpture. He often works with a team of craftsmen and fabricators to realize the sculpture, using materials such as wood, metal, and acrylic.

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

Additional Information

Michel Abboud is a Lebanese born architect, artist, and designer based in New York. He is the founder and principal of the architecture and design firm SOMA, which has completed several high-profile projects in the New York, Los Angeles, Dubai, Beirut, Doha, and other markets. In addition to his work in architecture, Abboud is also known for his artistic projects, which explore the intersections between art, architecture, and technology. He has exhibited his work at various museums and galleries around the world, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, and the Venice Biennale. Abboud has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including 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.