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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chains (object genres)

Series of objects connected one after the other, usually rings passing through one another.


A fine-grained limestone, or soft, earthy form of calcium carbonate; used chiefly in putty, crayons, paint, rubber products, linoleum, and as a pigment and abrasive.

chandeliers (hanging lights)

Lighting devices designed to hang from the roof or ceiling having two or more branches, holding candles, burners, or lamps; often ornamental.

charcoal (material)

A black, porous carbonaceous material comprising the carbon-containing residue from burned wood (e.g., willow, maple, beech, linden or plum) or other organic containing materials such as bone, plants or animals. It is used as a drawing material, for filtering liquids or air, and for other purposes.

cherry (wood)

General term referring to wood of several species of the genus Prunus native to Asia, Europe, and North America. The close, even-grain wood is strong and smells like roses when freshly cut. It is brownish to light red in color but darkens on exposure. Cherry wood takes a high polish and is valued for instrument cases, furniture, veneers, cabinetry, turnery, and decorative items. It was formerly used for airplane propellers.


Fine-grained, dense sedimentary rock consisting of interlocking crystals of quartz approximately 30 microns in diameter. Chert and its varieties, such as flint, are non-gem varieties of cryptocrystalline-granular quartz. These stones chip very easily and thus may be fashioned into tools with a sharp edge; they are also used for building.

chestnut (wood)

Wood of the genus Castanea; several species produce a light reddish brown wood that is relatively weak with a coarse grain. It is a soft light wood that splits easily but does not turn well. It is used for general construction, framing, fencing, poles, barrels, and veneer. Chestnut wood was commonly used for painted panels, especially in Italy.

chestnut oak (wood)

Refers specifically to the wood of the species Quercus prinus (also called Q. montana), used in making furniture. The term "chestnut oak" is also used informally as a general term referring to any of several species of oaks having leaves similar to chestnut trees.

chewing tobacco

Tobacco prepared for chewing, produced in a variety of forms such as compressed cakes, braided ropes, shredded leaves, and loose leaf ends, and usually flavored with substances such as licorice, spices, honey, or rum.

chicken wire

A light-gauge galvanized wire fencing, usually made with hexagonal mesh. So-called because it was originally used for enclosures for chickens.

chimney stacks

Chimneys containing a number of flues, especially when rising as shafts above a roof.

chimneys (architectural elements)

Vertical noncombustible structures containing flues for drawing off into the outside air products of combustion from, for example, stoves, fireplaces, and furnaces.

Chinese red

An unstandardized name for many red pigments, included but not limited to a variety of chrome reds, cinnabar, red mercuric sulfide, and vermilion.


Material, usuallly chips or sticks of wood, used for filling holes or cracks.


Textile, usually cotton or linen, dyed in a number of colors and usually glazed.

chrome steel

Any steel with chromium as the predominating element, the chromium making the steel hard and wear-resistant.

chrome yellow (pigment)

Pigment containing lead chromate, sometimes mixed with lead sulfate, ranging in color from lemon yellow to orange depending on its particle size, hydration state, and the percent lead chromate. It is is used in industrial paints, some artist's paints, and ceramic glazes.


Pure metallic element having symbol Cr and atomic number 24; an extremely hard, silvery white metal with a bluish tinge. Use also for the metal as processed and formed, usually in combination with other substances, to make various objects and materials, notably stainless steel, heat-resistant alloy, high-strength alloy steel, and for wear-resistant electroplating.


The incombustible residue of something burnt.

cinder blocks

Masonry units comprising lightweight cinder concrete, often used for interior partitions.

cinder concrete

A lightweight concrete made with cinder as the coarse aggregate.

cladding (metal coating)

Coating one metal with another by means of bonding, as to protect the inner metal from corrosion or for minting coins.

clapboard siding

Building siding constructed from a type of board bevelled toward one edge. Clapboards are attached overlapping each other horizontally, they are thinner at one edge, each board being made to overlap that below it.

classic cypress (wood)

Wood of the Cupressus sempervirens tree.


Naturally occurring sediments that are produced by chemical actions resulting during the weathering of rocks. It is often the term applied to all earths that form a paste with water and harden when heated.

clay mortar

Finely ground clay used as a plasticizer for masonry mortar.


Partially fused product from a kiln, which is ground and used for cement.

clinker brick

Very hard-burnt brick whose shape is distorted, owing to nearly complete vitrification; used for paving.


Generally, textile that is woven, felted, knit, pounded, or otherwise made into a flat piece. For textile in the form of continuous strands made from filaments of fiber by reeling, spinning, twisting, or throwing, see "yarn."

Coade stone

Building material, composed of ceramic similar to stoneware, developed in England around 1769, used primarily for architectural decoration.


Carbon-rich material that most often occurs in stratified sedimentary deposits. It is one of the most important of the primary fossil fuels. It is characterized by being solid, hard, opaque, black, or blackish, found in seams or strata in the earth, and largely used as fuel; it consists of carbonized vegetable matter deposited in former epochs of the world's history.

coal tar

Black viscous liquid with a naphthalene odor obtained by the distillation of bituminous coal. It can be separated into several fractions: gasoline, oil, creosote, and pitch. Coal tar is used in the manufacture of plastics, aniline dyes, for waterproofing, paints, roofing, roads, and as a pesticide.

coast Douglas fir (wood)

Wood from the species Pseudotsuga menziesii.

coast redwood (wood)

Wood from the Sequoia sempervirens, found along the California coast.

coating (material)

Use generally for any substance spread over a surface, usually for protection or decoration.

cob (clay mixture material)

Building material comprising a mixture of straw, gravel, and unburnt clay, especially used in the construction of walls, known as cob walls.

cobalt blue (pigment)

A bright, clear, blue pigment made by combining cobalt and aluminum oxides with phosphoric acid. It was discovered by Baron L. J. Thénard in France in 1802 and introduced to artists about 20 years later.


A rock fragment, rounded or otherwise abraded, with a diameter between 64 and 256 mm, being larger than a pebble and smaller than a boulder. The term can also refer more specifically to a rounded stone suitable for use in paving or other construction.

Cockeysville marble

A fine grained, magnesium-rich white marble from Cockeysville, Maryland; it has a few pale streaks or bands which give an effect of pale gray. One of the most popular types of marble used in nineteenth-century buildings in Washington, D.C., it comprised the top two thirds of the Washington Monument as well as the monolithic columns of the Capitol building extensions.

coconut (fruit)

Hard ovoid-shaped drupe (stone fruit) of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) native to the tropics. Coconuts have a fibrous outer husk and a woody inner shell that contains the coconut meat and white juice. Coconut shells range in diameter from 8 to 14 inches. Despite its name, the coconut is not classified as a nut.

common bond (masonry technique)

Technique of pattern bond in which a course of full-length headers occurs at regular intervals, usually every five or six courses; other courses are composed only of stretchers.

common hackberry (wood)

Wood of the species Celtis occidentalis; the wood is light-colored, yellowish gray to light brown with yellow streaks.

composite material

Material formed, either intentionally or through natural processes, from more than one constituent material, each with separate physical or chemical makeup.

composition (material)

Refers to various aggregate materials formed artificially from two or more substances, such as whiting, resin, and size used for modeling ornament in the late 18th century, or plaster of Paris, sawdust, bran, and glue used for dollmaking, or plastic cement-based mortars used in construction.

compressed wood

Wood which has been impregnated with resin and subjected to a high pressure to increase its density and strength.


A hard, strong construction material comprising a mixture of sand, gravel, crushed rock, or other aggregate, held together, typically by a hardened paste of cement and/or lime. Several types of aggregate are used such as crushed stone, slag, cinders or gravel. Ancient Romans developed pozzolan cement about the 3rd century BCE. Modern concretes use various cements such as portland or hydraulic. Concrete is durable and relatively inexpensive, used for foundations, bridges, dams, walls, and highways. Concrete is strong in compression but weak in tension so it is often reinforced with steel bars or wire netting. Once a concrete mixture is stirred with water and poured into a mold, it is allowed to cure slowly over about a week. Stresses, such as vibration, freezing, and rapid drying, will diminish the strength and durability of the concrete. As it ages, concrete is subject to erosion, spalling, and pollution. Poor mixing can cause erosion. Spalling can be due to freeze-thaw cycles of moisture and ice, salt crystallization, or corrosion of steel reinforcements. Acid rain can deplete the natural alkaline reserve of fresh concrete.

Concrete art

Term coined in 1930 by Theo van Doesburg to characterize a form of non-figurative painting in which the pictorial elements, planes and colors, have no significance other than themselves. He meant to distinguish between other forms of abstraction, indebted to illusionism mimicing the visible or natural world, and paintings that are products of the human mind. The definition was elaborated upon by Max Bill in 1936 in a catalog for the exhibition Zeitprobleme in der Schweizer Malerei und Plastik. In 1960 Bill organized an exhibition of work that fit his definition, and that established Concrete art as an international movement.

concrete blocks

Large units of building material made from a mixture of cement and an aggregate, usually 8 x 16 inches and of various thicknesses. A mixture of cement, aggregate, and water is vibrated and compacted in steel molds and then cured in air, steam, or under autoclaving processes. Became a very popular building material beginning in the early 20th century.

concrete brick
No description is available for this term.

concrete masonry units

Units for masonry construction made primarily of concrete; the most common types are concrete bricks and concrete blocks.

concrete pavers

Concrete mixers, usually mounted on crawler tracks, that mix and place concrete pavement on the subgrade.

concrete slabs

Flat plates made of concrete and used as structural elements in architecture.

cone shell

The shell of various marine snails of the genus Conus and family Conidae, typically straight-sided with tapering body whorl, low spire, and narrow opening, and of vivid colors and eccentric markings; it is valued as a material for bracelets, disks, and other ornament.

No description is available for this term.

copper (metal)

Pure metallic element having the symbol Cu and atomic number 29; a reddish brown, ductile metal that is present in the earth's crust, occurring as a native metal and as ores of sulfide, sulfate and carbonate (azurite, malachite, etc.). It was the first metal used by humans, probably from about 8000 BCE, in the regions of Mesopotamia and India. By about 3800 BCE copper was made into bronze for weapons and knives. Today, copper is one of the most widely used metals because it has high electrical and thermal conductivity, can be easily fabricated, is ductile and polishes well. In moist air, copper forms a protective green film of basic carbonate. Metallic copper combines well with other metals to form alloys, most commonly brass and bronze. Copper and its alloys are used for wire, electrical devices, pipes, cooking vessels, ammunition, ornamental trim, roofing, grillwork, coins, musical instruments, jewelry, and sculptures.

copper alloy

Alloy in which copper is the principle element.

copper green (pigment)

A pale blue green pigment made from copper salts.


A fossiliferous limestone composed of coarse shells or shell fragments which is loosely cemented by an infiltration of carbonate of lime; its name derives from the Spanish word for 'cockleshell.' Coquina is a detrital rock because it is formed from debris and is distinguished from coquinoid limestone which is formed in situ and is composed of shell material in a fine-grained matrix.

Cor-Ten steel (TM)

A weathering steel that has superior corrosion resistance over regular carbon steel because of a protective oxide film on the metal's surface. Its 50,000 minimum yield strength allows for cost reduction because lighter sections can be designed and built into structures; it is generally meant to be used in unpainted applications where a reduction in maintenance costs, such as painting, are desired. Cor-Ten is a brand name for corrosion resistant products that were developed by United States Steel; Cor-Ten has subsequently been licensed to be produced by other steel manufacturers.

coral (material)

Hard material consisting of calcium carbonate derived from the skeletal deposits of certain marine animals.

coral limestone

Fossiliferous limestone composed of fragments of corals.

corbel tables

May designate projecting masonry courses supported by a range of corbels, or ranges of corbels supporting cornices or other projecting courses, or ensembles of corbels and projecting courses; found especially in Medieval architecture.

cork (bark)

The lightweight, elastic outer bark the cork oak, species Quercus suber native to the Mediterranean region. Cork is elastic, buoyant, and resilient, used to seal wine bottles, for insulation, floats, acoustical wall covering, flooring, shoe soles, gaskets, and handles.

cork (pigment)

A type of dye ranging from purple to red in color, obtained from certain lichens growing, for example, on rocks in Scotland and the north of England.


Construction board made by compressing granulated cork and subjecting it to heat so that the particles cement themselves together.

corncob (material)

Material comprising the elongated woody core of an ear of corn, in which the grains were embedded.


The projecting, uppermost features of classical entablatures; use also for similar features crowning a window or wall.

Cornus (genus)

Genus of 30-50 species of shrubs, trees, and herbs native to Europe, eastern Asia, and North America.

corrugated iron

Structural sheet of iron or steel, usually galvanized for weather resistance, shaped in alternating ridges and grooves; used as roofing, siding, and the like.

corrugated steel
No description is available for this term.

cotton (textile)

Textile made from cotton fiber.

cottonwood (wood)

General term for wood from several species of poplar trees, all having in common that they have a soft, pale color, are fine-grained with uniform texture, may be worked easily, stain well, but have a tendency to warp. Cottonwood is used for millwork, musical instruments, paneling, packing boxes, paper pulp, and excelsior (wood shavings used for stuffing).

coursed ashlar

Building material comprising squared stonework laid in regular courses of consistent height; though each course may vary in height.

cover tile

The tiles that bridge the open joint between rows of tiles in a roof. For example, in ancient Greek architecture, the roof tile (imbrex) of terracotta or marble, usually semicircular (Laconian) or triangular (Corinthian) in section, bridged the open joint between two rows of flat tiles or pantiles (tegulae).


A coal-tar distillate that is a mixture of organic compounds, largely hydrocarbons, commonly used as a wood preservative.

crown glass

Flat pane glass made by blowing a bubble of glass, transferring it from a blow-pipe to a rod, cutting it open, then rapidly rotating it until, by centrifugal force, it is spread into a flat disk. Can be either small individual panes with so-called bulls-eyes in the centers or large disks that are annealed and cut into pieces. Crown glass is thin and brilliant with a slight convexity and concentric wavy lines. Known to the ancient Romans throughout the Empire; found in windows of medieval cathedrals.

crushed stone

Rock, often granite, limestone, or trap rock, that is quarried, crushed, and graded and then used for making concrete, railway ballast, and road making.

Cryptomeria japonica (species)

Species of conifer native to Japan; the only species in its genus.

crystal (lead glass)

Fine, high quality, heavy, decorative glass made with fine white sand, at least 24% lead oxide, and small amounts of potash and niter. It is clear, colorless, highly refractive glass that is heavy and has greater than twice the density of standard borate glass. It was developed in England in 1676; often used for high quality chandelier prisms and fine stemware.

crystal (material by form)

A solid body having a characteristic internal structure and enclosed by systematically arranged plane surfaces.

Cupressus (genus)

Genus containing 12 species of ornamental and timber evergreen conifers native to warm temperate regions in the northern hemisphere, including western North America, Central America, northwest Africa, the Middle East, the Himalaya, southern China, and north Vietnam.


Blocks or slabs of stone or concrete set on edge, creating an upward projection that is used as a curb; may be straight or curved.

curtain walls (nonbearing walls)

Nonbearing walls supported by the members of a rigid frame structure, such as a reinforced concrete or steel frame, and therefore serving to enclose but not to support. Nonbearing walls supported by the members of a rigid frame structure, such as a reinforced concrete or steel frame, and therefore serving to enclose but not to support.

cut glass

Glassware with facets, grooves, and depressions produced by cutting with a rotating wheel of metal or stone.

cut nails

Nails having sharp edges along four sides of the shank, and often a flat, rectangular point. The shape of the shank allows the nail to punch its way through timber fibers rather than causing the wood to split. An example of use is for nailing hardwoods, such as oak flooring.

cut velvet

Velvet in which the loops formed by the pile warp are cut to form tufts.

cyclopean concrete

Mass concrete in which large stones, each weighing 100 lb. (45.4 kg) or more, are embedded when the concrete is laid. The stones, called pudding stones or plums, are typically less than 6 in. (15 cm) apart and farther than 8 in. (20 cm) away from any exposed surface.

cylinder glass

Flat pane glass characterized by straight ripples. Is made by an an ancient technique of blowing a large glass bubble and swinging it on a blow-pipe to form a long bottle, then cutting off both hemispherical ends. The resulting cylinder is then cut lengthwise and reheated after which it is flattened by a wooden plane or by being allowed to sink to a flat state. Traditionally, it was characterized by a great variability of texture, color, and thickness, though it is more regular when produced by modern methods. Cylinder glass largely replaced crown glass when the process of making it was mechanized.

cypress (wood)

Wood of trees of the Cupressus genus, native to Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, and known for its durability.


An extrusive acid igneous rock that is sometimes partly glassy and is composed of plagioclase and quartz with biotite, hornblende, or pyroxene.


Woven figured textile with one warp and one weft in which the pattern is formed by a contrast of binding systems, and appears on the face and the back in reverse positions.


Material, such as plaster or mud, used with wattle as a building material.

deciduous trees

Trees which seasonally shed leaves.


A heavy, twill-woven, warp-flush textile.

detergent (cleaning compound)

Any cleaning agent used to remove foreign matter from soiled surfaces. Typically made from synthetic materials, distinguishing it from soap, which is created from fats and oils.

diamond black

A form of carbon black that is an aniline pigment, in which a primary aromatic amine, aniline, is converted into a diazonium salt that is an intermediate in the preparation of dyes.

diamond mesh lath

An expanded metal mesh material used in construction as a base for plaster on vertical surfaces.

diaper (textile material)

Self-patterned textile with a small rectilinear pattern formed by contrasting the weave's warp and weft faces.

diatomaceous earth

An soft, whitish, absorbent powder derived from the siliceous skeletons of microscopic water plants called diatoms, composed of 88% silica. It is used as a poultice, a desiccating insecticide, a decolorizer and filtration aid for purifying oils, fats, and waxes, an inert pigment, a filler in paper, paint, brick, floor tiles, ceramics, linoleum, plastic, soap, and detergent, an insulation for boilers and blast furnaces, as sound insulation, and as a very mild abrasive in metal polishes and toothpaste. It reduces gloss, acts as a suspending agent, increases viscosity, and absorbs dyes well, thus is used as a base for lake colors.

dimension lumber

Lumber cut to a particular size and stocked for the building industry; usually 2 to 5 inches thick and 5 to 12 inches wide.