When hermit crabs outgrow their shells, they participate in an encouraging act of resource sharing. The crustaceans line up by size and swap homes, and hopefully, each creature finds an appropriately sized shelter. Options tend to be limited to the shells washed up on shore, unless Tokyo-based artist Aki Inomata is involved.

Since 2009, Inomata has been designing tiny homes for hermit crabs topped with towering skyscrapers, windmills, and churches. Part of an ongoing series titled Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs?, the 3D-printed resin works resemble urban landscapes and draw similarities between human and animal environments. Inomata’s designs, although not released into the wild, evoke the species’ organic exchanges as a way to consider the evolving nature of home.

Now more than a decade since Inomata began the series, the project takes on additional significance given the surge in migration and refugee crises around the world. The array of global architecture allows individuals to seamlessly swap Western streets for Eastern palaces or capacious spaces for dense cities, emphasizing the potential for more communal, cooperative living.

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