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The World's Tiniest Habitable Buildings Belong to Hermit Crabs

The pet hermit crabs of Japanese artist Aki Inomata are surely among the worldliest of their species. Instead of shells, they wear transparent 3D-printed versions of the New York City skyline, a fortified Moroccan city called Ait-Ben-Haddou, and Thai temples on their backs. For the last six years, Inomata has been creating gorgeous, tiny pieces of habitable architecture for her art project, "Why Not Hand Over a Shelter to Hermit Crabs?" Her pet crabs are selective about their shells, however. While they have moved into diminutive models of Dutch windmills, and houses from the French port of Honfleur, they have also been known to spurn some of Inomata's more creative shells.

"The first time that I made this piece, I only gave the hermit crabs spherical shapes, but they ignored my 'shelters,'" says Inomata. She then decided to use CT scans to study the natural shape of the crab's shells. By feeding that data into a 3D printer, Inomata was able to create transparent resin structures that the hermit crabs would accept as new homes. "The hermit crabs in my piece, who exchange shelters representing cities of the world, seem to be crossing over national borders."

Process of "Why Hand Over a 'Shelter' to Hermit Crabs? " AKI INOMATA from Aki Inomata on Vimeo.

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