SAH Archipedia uses terms from the Getty Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) to categorize and classify metadata for the entries in the database. For more information on the Getty AAT, click here

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black marble

Marble that is predominantly black in color.

black oak (wood)

Wood of the species Quercus velutina.

black slate

Slate that is predominantly black in color.

black walnut (wood)

Wood of the species Juglans nigra native to the eastern and mid-western sections of North America, having a strong, durable, dark brown heartwood that finishes to a high polish. The sapwood is a pale yellow. The texture is coarse, but uniform and the grain is usually straight. Variations in color and waviness in grain are usually valued for decorative work. Black walnut is used for paneling, interior trim, furniture, cabinetry, clocks, propellers, gunstocks, sewing machines, piano cases, plywood, veneer, and decorative items.

blackboard slate

Select, unfading, black slate of uniform color and thickness with all edges ground and accurately squared so that joints can be made tight, smooth, and on the same plane.

blue brick

A brick of high strength whose blue color results from firing in a kiln with a flame of low oxygen content.

blue slate

Slate that has components of speculite and graphite in proportions that cause a bluish black color.

blue-and-white (ceramic glaze)

Refers to the glaze of white porcelain that is decorated with blue under the glaze. Underglaze blue had been used in the Middle East from the 9th century; it was introduced to China in the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Particularly notable are the blue-and-white wares produced in China during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Underglaze blue was introduced to Europe from China in the 18th century.


A type of bluish-gray feldspathic sandstone that is dense, fine-grained and splits easily into thin smooth slabs; for this reason it is often used as flagstone.

board and batten

Siding in which joints between vertically placed boards are covered by narrow strips of wood.

boards (flat objects)

Thin, flat, rigid objects, of considerable length or breadth compared to thickness, most often of wood, paperboard, or composite fiber materials.

bole (clay)

Soft, unctuous clays of various colors, used as pigments and in the ground for gold leaf.

bonds (masonry technique)

Methods by which masonry units, such as bricks or stones, are interlocked or joined through adhesion of mortar to the bricks. Bonds may be identified and referenced by the pattern on the surface of the masonry. For the process focusing on facing patterns, often in reference to ancient patterns, use children of "masonry facing (process)," although meaning overlaps.

bone (material)

The rigid, calcareous material that is white in color and forms the skeleton of vertebrates; primarily composed of calcium hydroxyapatite with smaller amounts of calcium carbonate, calcium fluoride, magnesium phosphate, and ossein, a high molecular weight protein. Bones have a concentric structure with central lymphatic canals surrounded by a spongy lamellar region protected by a dense outer cortex. Bone has been carved and used since ancient times for many purposes, including fish-hooks, spear heads, needles, handles, and art objects. Bones were also burnt to produce bone black and boiled to produce bone glue. Bone can be distinguished from ivory by being generally whiter, more porous, and less dense.

bone white

White pigment made from calcium hydroxyapatite and calcium carbonate derived from bone ash. It was used in grounds for silver point drawings, in making ceramics, and as a polishing compound.

borosilicate glass

Silicate glass containing at least five percent boric oxide and used in heat-resistant glassware.

botanical gardens

Primarily outdoor areas where a variety of plants are grown and displayed for scientific, educational, or artistic purposes.

Botticino marble

An Italian marble which can either be dark cream, light cream with brown markings, or light brown with whitish patches.


Vessels having a neck and mouth considerably narrower than the body, used for packaging and containing liquid and dry preparations. For vessels having wider necks and mouths, use "jars."


The largest rock fragment recognized by sedimentologists, a boulder is a detached rock mass larger than a cobble, having a diameter greater than 256 mm (10 in.).


Mixture of mud, moss, and lime (often in the form of ground shells) used as infill between wall timbers, characteristic of French-influenced architecture of the southern United States, especially Louisiana.

boxes (containers)

Rigid, often rectangular containers usually with a lid or cover in which something nonliquid is kept or carried.

boxwood (wood)

Dense, pale yellow wood from trees of the genus Buxus. Although difficult to carve, the wood has excellent dimensional stability and is very wear resistant. The hard, fine-grain wood is often used for printing blocks, rulers, mallets, architects scales, slide rules, modeling tools, musical instruments, engravings, inlays, small decorative items, and game pieces.

braced frames

Wooden building frames that use diagonal bracing between full-height corner posts and the plates; generally found in construction with timbers heavy enough to be mortised.

braid (trimming)

A narrow trimming made by a variety of techniques such as tablet weaving or braiding. It comes in a variety of fibers and weights, but is heavier than ribbon and flatter than cord.

No description is available for this term.

brass (alloy)

Alloy of copper and zinc, usually with copper as the major alloying element and zinc up to 40% by weight.

Brazilian rosewood (wood)

Dense, reddish-brown wood with black streaks obtained from the species Dalbergia nigra, native to Brazil. Brazilian rosewood is extremely rare because the trees were overharvested in the early 20th century. It is prized as a decorative wood, formerly used in the manufacture of furniture, cabinetry, and knife-handles. It is not a true Jacaranda.


A coarse-grained dastic rock, composed of angular broken rock fragments held together by a mineral cement or a fine-grained matrix.

breche violette marble

A coarse breccia marble of sharply angular red, pink, and white fragments in a dull red-brown matrix.

brick (clay material)

Clay or clay products formed into a rectangular block and hardened by drying in the sun or firing in a kiln.

brick red (color)

Variable orange colors resembling the color of bricks, which are typically rectangular clay products used for building.

brickwork (works by material)

Designs or arrangements comprising fired brick, sometimes glazed or otherwise decorated, arranged using bricklaying, especially arrangements in patterns or images.

brilliant yellow (pigment)

An unstandardized pigment name used for various yellow pigments, including but not limited to Naples yellow, a mixture of cadmium yellow with either lead white or zinc white, and a synthetic disazo dye.


Fixed or movable devices, such as louvers, designed to block the direct entrance of sun rays into buildings.

bronze (metal)

Refers to a broad range of alloys of copper, specifically any non-ferrous alloy of copper, tin, and zinc or other trace metals. Bronze was made before 3,000 BCE -- possibly as early as 10,000 BCE, although its common use in tools and decorative items is dated only in later artifacts. The proportions of copper and tin vary widely, from 70 to 95 percent copper in surviving ancient artifacts. Because of the copper base, bronze may be very malleable and easy to work. By the Middle Ages in Europe, it was recognized that using the metals in certain proportions could yield specific properties. Some modern bronzes contain no tin at all, substituting other metals such as aluminum, manganese, and even zinc. Historically, the term was used interchangeably with "latten." U.S. standard bronze is composed of 90% copper, 7% tin and 3% zinc. Ancient bronze alloys sometimes contained up to 14% tin.

brown oak

Wood from an oak tree that has a rich dark brown color as a result of being infected by beefsteak fungi.

brownstone (material)

A brown or reddish-brown sandstone whose grains are generally coated with iron oxide.

buckeye (wood)

General term for wood of any species of horse chestnut native to North America.

buffer (material)

Any substance capable in solution of neutralizing both acids and bases and thereby maintaining the original acidity or basicity of the solution.


Any of various siliceous, open-textured types of limestone or sandstone; uses include for millstones and as building material.

building board

Multipurpose board used in construction, such as for insulation or structural purposes.

building brick (clay products)

Brick made from natural clay and having no special surface treatment.

building paper

Paper used for insulation, as in walls, roofs, and between floors.

building sand

Selected sand used for concrete, for mortar, for laying bricks, and for plastering.

building stone

Any stone used for building.

built-in furniture

Furniture built into the walls or overall structure of a building. This can include, chests, cabinets, corner cupboards, bookcases, beds, and seating.


Historically, refers to modest one-story houses, originally with thatched roofs, derived from examples in India; by extension, in British contexts, use for detached one-story houses; in American contexts use more specifically for one- to one-and-a-half-story houses generally characterized by low-pitched gable or hipped roofs, usually with widely projecting, often bracketed eaves, dormers, and conspicuous front porches; popular in the United States from the late 19th to the early 20th century.

burl (wood)

Areas of tree growth where the grain has grown in a deformed manner, such as in small knots from dormant buds, forming rounded outgrowths on a tree trunk or branch and wavy and circular patterns in timber and veneer.

burl veneer

Veneer made from tree excrescences that are typically in the form of flattened hemispheres. For example, one type of burl veneer is made from the stumps of walnut trees.


Coarse canvas made of jute, used mainly for sacks and wrapping.

burled walnut

General term for a log, piece of timber, or veneer made from areas of burls in any variety of walnut wood, that is, from areas containing overgrown knots or excrescences. Burled walnut was used as veneers on chests and high chests in the William and Mary and sometimes the Queen Anne style, made in the United States during the 18th century.

burnt sienna (pigment)

Sienna earth that has been exposed to a red heat, causing it to turn a darker, cooler, less orange-red tone.

butterfly roofs

Roofs sloping downward from eaves on either side to a central valley. Roofs sloping downward from eaves on either side to a central valley.

butternut (wood)

Soft, yellowish-gray wood with a coarse grain from the species Juglans cinerea, ranging in color from light chestnut brown with darker zones in the heartwood to pale yellow or white in the sapwood. It polishes well and has been used for carving, furniture, and interior millwork


Pierlike masonry elements built to strengthen or support walls or resist the lateral thrust of vaults.

Buxus (genus)

Genus containing around 70 species slow-growing evergreen shrubs and small trees in the family Buxaceae.

Buxus sempervirens (species)
No description is available for this term.

cable (material)

Strong, thick, linear material made of several strands of iron wire that are twisted or braided. Distinguished from "rope," which is usually made from synthetic or organic fibers.

cabled yarn

Yarn produced by twisting together two or more strands of plied yarn; the final twist is opposite to that of the plied ends.

Caen stone

A fine-grained French oolitic limestone that is cream in color and easily carved.

calcareous sandstone

Homogenous sandstone with a cement or matrix of calcium carbonate which binds together the quartz particles of which sandstone is mainly composed. It splits almost equally well in both directions and is easily worked but disintegrates upon exposure. Pure calcareous sandstone is white or cream in color; colors are due to impurities: yellow and red colors are due to the presence of iron oxides; green from glauconite; and black from manganese dioxide.


White or colored wall paint consisting of whiting, glue, linseed oil, or water colors.

calcium hydroxide

Colorless crystal or soft, white, alkaline powder prepared by reacting calcium oxide (lime) with water in a process called slaking. It is used in paints, dehairing hide, medicines, and in conservation for superficial protective treatments thanks to its conversion into calcium carbonate.


Cemented deposits of calcium carbonate materials.


Cotton textile, heavier than muslin, plain, dyed, or with patterns printed in one or more colors. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term referred to printed, colored or plain cloth from India; now it refers generally to cotton prints with small, stylized patterns.

cameras (photographic equipment)

Lightproof boxes fitted with a lens through the aperture of which the image of an object is recorded on light-sensitive material such as film, or transformed into electrical impulses for direct transmission or for video recording.

camphor (resin)

The white resin of the species Cinnamomum camphora, used for hardening nitrocellulose plastic. Camphor is also in pharmaceuticals, disinfectants, and explosives.

canopy trees

Trees which form an overhanging shade or shelter.

canvas (textile material)

Closely woven textile made in various weights, usually of flax, hemp, jute, or cotton, used especially for sails, tarpaulins, awnings, upholstery, bags, and as a support for oil painting.


A heavy, oily substance distilled from an anthracene-oil or creosote-oil fraction of coal tar, sometimes chlorinated or otherwise treated, and used as a wood preservative, disinfectant, or insecticide.


Element that forms the framework for all tissues of plants and animals. Chemical symbol C and atomic number 6. Carbon may appear in many forms, including diamond, graphite, charcoal, carbon black, and fullerene. High quantities of carbon occur in coal, coke, oil, gasoline, and natural gas. Proteins such as hair, meat, and silk contain carbon and other elements. More than six and a half million compounds of the element carbon exist, including sugar, starch, and paper.

carbon steel

Steel that does not have specified minimum content levels of alloying elements. The term can also refer to steel that does not have more than 0.40% copper or to steel that has maximum content levels of the following: manganese 1.65%, silicon 0.60%, and copper 0.60%.

carbon tetrachloride

Volatile, noninflammable compound of carbon and chlorine.

Carboniferous limestone

Limestone from the Carboniferous period from about 345 to 280 million years ago.


A translucent red or orange variety of chalcedony, containing iron impurities. It is often used for seals and signet rings.


Material woven by the yard to be made up into carpets.

Carrara marble

Refers to a type of marble quarried in the area around Carrara, in Tuscany, Italy. It is characterized by a fine, compact grain and varies in color from pure white to creamy white, sometimes with a bluish tinge; it is a saccharoidal rock that can appear translucent in the finer grades. It has been a favorite stone of sculptors from antiquity to the present, including Michelangelo Buonarotti. Luna marble was the name used in ancient Rome.

Carrara structural glass (TM)

A type of structural plate glass that is ground to true plane surfaces; used for storefronts, countertops, tiling, and paneling. It is made in many colors in thicknesses from 11/32 to 1 1/2 inches (0.86 to 3.81 cm) or laminated to give different color effects.

Carya (genus)

Genus containing around 18 species of deciduous timber and nut-producing trees native to eastern North America and eastern Asia. Fossil remains identifiable as belonging to the genus are found in western North America, Greenland, Iceland, and Europe. It has tough heavy wood, and drupes (mostly with a hard woody rind or husk) enclosing 'nuts,' the kernels of which in several species are edible.

cascades (water features)

Man-made stepped waterfalls, whether naturalistic or architectural in form. For similar natural or highly naturalistic features, use "waterfalls."

casement windows

Windows having a sash that opens on hinges attached to the upright side of the frame.

cast iron

An iron alloy containing about 2 to 4% carbon and 1 to 3% silicon, having a high compressive strength but low tensile strength. Cast iron is manufactured by melting scrap iron or pig iron in a cupola that is in contact with the coal fuel, then casting the molten iron into a mold. A large range of building and decorative items are made of cast iron by pouring the molten metal into sand molds and then machining. It is inexpensive and easy to make. It was made in China by at least the 3rd century BCE; the technique for its production did not reach Europe until medieval times.

cast stone

Concrete with a fine aggregate or mortar which is cast into blocks or small slabs using special molds so as to resemble natural building stone.

cast-in-place concrete

Concrete that is deposited in liquid form in the place where it is required to harden as part of a structure; for concrete that is cast and cured in other than its final location, use "precast concrete."

casting plaster

Type of plaster of Paris especially prepared to have the properties most desirable for casting and carving; it is very fine-grained, absorbent, brilliantly white, slow setting, and capable of taking fine detail.


Any substance that in small amounts increases the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed itself.

cattail (material)

Material derived from the long flat leaves of tall reedlike marsh plants of the genus Typha, used in making mats and chair seats, and since they swell when wet, leaves are used for caulking cracks in barrels and boats.

catwalks (circulation elements)

Narrow fixed walkways providing access to an otherwise inaccessible area or to lighting units, such as used above an auditorium or stage.

cedar (wood)

Wood of any of the four species of ornamental and timber evergreen conifers of the genus Cedrus.


Overhead surfaces of interior spaces, sometimes constructed to mask building systems or structural elements.

cellars (storerooms)

Rooms, often wholly or mostly below ground level, used for storage of food and often other items; for similar areas serving utility purposes or as living spaces, use "basements."


Glossy transparent material made from regenerated cellulose, typically in the form of thin sheets, usually moisture-proofed and sometimes dyed; impervious to dry gases, grease, and bacteria, and used as packaging or wrapping for food and other merchandise, envelope windows, and bags for dialysis.

cellulose (complex carbohydrate)

A complex natural carbohydrate, or polysaccharide, composed of long, connected chains of glucose molecules, forming the primary component in the cell walls of plants. Pure cellulose is an odorless, tasteless white powder. Cellulose exists in three forms: alpha, beta and gamma. Cellulose is used to manufacture paper and textiles, and as a raw material in rayon, cellophane, cellulose acetate, and celluloid.

cement (construction material)

Any of several finely powdered inorganic materials that can be mixed with water then dried to form a solid, durable mass, such as plaster, lime, pozzolan cement, and portland cement. It is used in construction as an ingredient of mortar and concrete.

cement mortar

Mortar made with portland cement, sand, and water, and sometimes with lime to aid spreading.

ceramic (material)

Refers to any of various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials made by shaping and then firing a nonmetallic mineral, such as clay, at a high temperature.

ceramic glaze

Thin, opaque, vitreous coating that is applied to the surface of a ceramic body by painting, spraying, or dipping, in order to add color, texture, or water resistance to the object. The glaze is applied to the surface of a fired ceramic piece, and then the piece is refired at a temperature that vitrifies the glaze, but is lower than the original firing temperature. Ceramic glazes are usually mixtures of silicates, colorants, and flux.

ceramic tile

Fired clay in various shapes and thicknesses and with a variety of uses, as for surface covering, drainage, or construction. For flat, solid, and relatively thin durable material used primarily for surface covering, use "tile."

Ceratonia siliqua (species)

Species of tree native to the eastern Mediterranean region and cultivated elsewhere. It is highly drought resistant. The tree reaches about 15 m (50 feet) in height, has glossy evergreen leaves, and produces long leathery pods that contain up to 15 hard brown seeds embedded in a sweet, edible pulp. The ripened pods are food for animals and also ground for a variety of uses by humans. The seeds are ground to produce a gum. The seeds were a standard of weight measurement in the ancient world, from which the concept "carat" is derived. The common names referring to locusts or St. John's bread come from the belief that the so-called "locusts" on which John the Baptist fed in the Biblical story were carob pods, not grasshoppers. There are various other references to the tree in the Bible.