ZOO architects designs biomorphic shelter prototypes for otters

ZOO architects designs biomorphic shelter prototypes for otters

the otter house project by zoo architects 


Inspired by natural forms and tracing back to the very roots of architecture, Chinese practice ZOO Architects has taken organic materials such as rock, earth, and hay to create houses specifically tailored to the scale and needs of otters based on a deep knowledge of their preferred environments, social behavior, diet, and cognitive abilities. The result is The Otter House Project — a complex and fascinating group of biomorphic housing prototypes where these riparian animals can nestle and call home. 

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The Otter House Project | all renders by ZOO Architects



understanding the behavior and mind of otters


The Otter House Project by ZOO Architects (see more here) focuses on how these animals usually live together and form family groups. Otters often sleep holding hands, which is a manifestation of their social behavior, and live together in families or groups, typically consisting of a pair of adult otters and their offspring. They communicate with each other through sounds, postures, and odors. The behavior of sleeping hand-in-hand usually occurs among family or group members, helping to strengthen their bonds and trust. Otters also practice monogamy, which means they manifest loyalty to their life partners.They will store enough food inside their nests to prepare for unexpected needs.

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reflecting otters’ preferred environments, social behavior, diet, and cognitive abilities



Otters are very intelligent and agile in their daily lives. They can use stones to knock on shells to open them, allowing them to eat the soft-bodied animals inside. This behavior is considered a form of tool use, which is a rare occurrence among non-human animals. In addition, they are very clean animals and typically use their front paws to groom and clean their fur, keeping it dry and waterproof. Sometimes, otters catch fish not just for food, but also as a hobby. They will carry the caught fish ashore, lay them out one by one on the ground, and then turn around to catch more, simply for the fun of it. They enjoy playing in the water and often engage in activities such as chase games, diving, and fishing, even throwing one or multiple small stones into the air with their paws and mouths, and then catching them again, repeating this cycle repeatedly. 

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otters adapt to a wide range of environments



Some otters even use the same stone throughout their lifetimes. When not in use, they hide their dedicated stones in the pouch-like skin on their forelimbs and occasionally take them out to juggle. Scientists speculate that playing with stones is a way for otters to practice their skill of using stones, as they use them to crack the shells of crustaceans or mollusks when feeding. And when it comes to their surroundings, otters are able to adapt to a wide range of environments, including rivers, lakes, marshes, and oceans. They typically prefer freshwater habitats with slow-moving water, high water clarity, sparse aquatic vegetation, and an abundance of fish, especially small streams with lush tree coverage along their banks.

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otters prefer freshwater habitats with slow-moving water



 As top predators and key species in freshwater and coastal ecosystems, the presence of otters is an important biological indicator of environmental health. ‘Therefore, by designing suitable habitats for otters, we can not only protect the natural environment, but also take the opportunity to deeply reflect on the meaning of human architecture. It also makes us realize that architecture is not merely a product that satisfies human needs, but also a form of respect for nature and life,’ concludes ZOO Architects on The Otter House Project. 

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The Otter House Project focuses on how these animals live together and form family groups

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night time view of The Otter House Project




project info:


name: The Otter House Project
architecture: ZOO Architects



designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

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