Church for Crabs: Architectural 3D-Printed Hermit Shell

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A hermit crab scuttles along the sand, carrying a perfect replica of a Japanese wedding chapel on its back, complete with a tiny spire. After designing a series of crystal-clear ‘crawling cities,’ artist Aki Inomata returns with another detailed architectural alternative to natural shells, rendered in transparent acrylic so we can still see the crab’s body within.

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Entitled ‘White Chapel,’ this miniature sculpture is the third installment of Inomata’s project ‘Why Not Hand Over a Shelter to Hermit Crabs?’ The shape will look familiar to Westerners, of course, as we see churches like this practically on every block. But in Japan, such structures are used for weddings only, and rarely for worshipping or any other form of religious services.

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“When I visit Western countries, I sometimes notice the origin of architecture, habits, foods, etc… in Japan, they would be transformed into local styles, and I ask myself, ‘are we Japanese living in mimicry of western world?’ says the artist. “For me, these imitations, or I would say reproductions or arrangements of Western-style architecture, seem to reflect identities of post-colonialism inside of Japanese people.”

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Inomata uses CT scanning to perfectly replicate the interior shape of a natural hermit crab shell so all of her artificial alternatives fit comfortably. Previous versions have included skylines of New York City and Amsterdam, as well as reproductions of buildings in Paris and Tokyo.