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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sedimentary rock

Rock, such as sandstone or limestone, formed from materials deposited as sediments.


A variety of gypsum occurring in transparent crystals or crystalline masses.

semiprecious stone

Stone with less commercial value than those classified as precious.

Seneca sandstone

A fine-grained red, reddish-brown, and gray sandstone from Seneca Creek, Maryland; it contains coarse- to fine-grained angular quartz as well as some feldspar and mica fragments. It is fairly easy to carve but darkens and hardens when exposed to air, making it one of the most durable building stones. Seneca sandstone was extremely popular in Washington, D.C. during the 'brownstone era' of about 1840 to 1880; the original Smithsonian Institution building, for example, is made of Seneca sandstone.

Sequoiadendron giganteum (species)

Species of enormous tree, living for hundreds or thousands of years, found in California and Oregon, United States, in scattered groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Range at elevations 900-2,600 m (3,000-8,500 feet). It is the only living species of its genus.

serpentine (mineral)

An ornamental mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate, having a greasy or silky luster, a slightly soapy feel, and a tough, conchoidal fracture. It ranges in color from yellow, green, gray, brown, or black, with crystals of green olivine and black veins or patches. Serpentine has been gathered or mined since Paleolithic times, used for decorative vessels, jewelry, building stones, and as a source of abestos.


Metamorphic rock containing of serpentine (magnesium silicate) and calcite (calcium carbonate) cemented together with red iron oxide (ferrous oxide). Serpentine or ophicarbonate stones have fragments of red, white, and green colors, although the overall hue is typically greenish. The stones polish to a high gloss, which has led to them being occasionally mislabeled as marble; however, they are fragile and unsuited for sculpture. Its color and ability to take a high polish have made serpentinites popular with many civilizations over time for decorative and ornamental work.

shake (wood product)

Shingle or clapboard formed by splitting a short log into tapered radial sections.


Argillaceous sedimentary rock formed by the compaction of clay, silt, or mud; it may be gray, red, brown, or black. It is finely laminated and weak along planes allowing the rock to split easily.

shavings (material)

Material consisting of thin layers or shreds that have been cut or sliced off the surface of anything with a sharp tool, such as a thin slice of wood cut off with a plane.


The covering, usually wood boards, plywood, or wallboard, placed over the exterior studding or rafters of a building; provides a base for the application of wall or roof siding.

sheet glass

Refers to a type of glass that is made by pressing molten glass through rollers. It is generally characterized by an even texture and uniform thickness. It may also be used more generally to refer to any glass produced in large flat sheets made by blowing, drawing, rolling, or floating.

sheet metal

Metal rolled to any given thickness between 0.06 and 0.249 inches and cut into rectangular sections.

sheeting (textile)

Textile used for bed sheets, pillowcases, and similar items, woven by the yard.

Sheffield plate

Plate consisting of an overlay of silver on copper, brass, or other metal so as to simulate solid silver.

shell (animal material)

Hard outer covering of invertebrate creatures, composed of calcareous or chitinous material.


Material such as wood, slate, tile, concrete, or asbestos cement, cut to stock dimensions; used chiefly for roofing.

shingle oak (wood)

Wood of the species Quercus imbricaria, used primarily for making shingles and clapboard siding for houses.

shingle tile

A flat clay tile used for roofing.

No description is available for this term.

shiplap joints

Double rabbet wood joints made by mating two rabbets in a way suitable for cladding.

shiplap siding

Siding formed from boards interlocked by rebates.


Low-growing, woody perennials characterized by several branches at the base and by a lack of conspicuous trunks; generally restricted to plants under 6 m high.

siding (material)

Nonstructural, outer, exterior wall covering of buildings.

Siena marble

Yellow and light brown marble quarried near Siena, Italy that is sought after for interior architectural use, both in the past and in the present; it is compact and often brecciated, with a waxy lustre.


Systems of posted signs arranged to communicate directions or essential information.

siliceous sandstone

Sandstone that is rich in silica, particularly as free silica as opposed to silicates; the silica characterizes the cement or matrix which binds together the quartz particles of which sandstone is mainly composed. Pure siliceous sandstone is chemically inert, making it able to withstand a smokey environment; it is therefore a popular building stone in industrial areas. It is also hard and durable but difficult to work. Pure siliceous 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.


Semi-metallic element, having symbol Si and atomic number 14, in amorphous and crystalline forms, occurring in a combined state in minerals and rocks and constituting more than one fourth of the earth's crust. The chemical industry uses the term "silicon metal" and "silicon" interchangeably, and anything but pure silicon is generally referred to in this context as "semiconductor-grade silicon."


Any solid semi-inorganic polymers based on siloxanes, obtained by the action of concentrated hydrochloric acid on calcium silicide. Silicones were first discovered by F.S. Kipping in England in 1904, but were not commercially produced as polymers until 1943 by Dow Corning and 1946 by General Electric. They were called silicones because their empirical formula (R2SiO) is similar to that for ketones (R2CO). Silicones can be liquids, gels, and elastomers as well as solid thermoplastic or thermosetting resins. In general, they have excellent heat and chemical resistance and are water repellent. Silicones are used as adhesives, lubricants, protective coatings, release agents, paints, rubbers, coolants, implants, and insulation.


All sediment particles, regardless of mineral origin, that fall within a specified size range between those of sand and clay. An unconsolidated aggregation of particles is also called silt; a consolidated aggregate, silt-stone.

silver (metal)

Pure metallic element having symbol Ag and atomic number 47; a malleable, ductile, white metal with characteristic sheen, considered a precious metal. Silver is widely distributed throughout the world, occurring rarely as metallic silver (in Peru, Norway) but more often as silver-gold alloys and silver ore. Today silver is obtained as a byproduct in the refinement of gold, lead, copper, or zinc ores. Silver was smelted from the ore galena as early as 3800 BCE. As a pure metal, silver is second to gold in malleability and ductility, can be polished to a highly reflective surface, and used -- typically in an alloy -- in jewelry, coinage, photography, mirrors, electrical contacts, and tableware.

silver birch (wood)

Wood of the species Betula pendula found throughout Europe, including the British Isles and Scandinavia. It is characterized by having no distinct heartwood, with whitish to pale brown, fairly straight-grained wood. It is used for plywood, furniture, dowels, fittings, brooms, and turnings

single strength window glass

Sheet glass with a thickness of 3/32 in. used for windows.


Openings in a roof, glazed or filled with other transparent or translucent material, serving to admit light to a space below.

slab glass

Refers to a type of modern cast glass that is made by pouring molten glass into molds, creating a thick glass that may have a chipped or faceted surface. It is used primarily in construction, for example, to create floors or windows set in concrete, sometimes resembling stained glass. It was invented in France around 1900 as a form of paving.


Vitreous substance composed of earthy or refuse matter that is separated from metals in the process of smelting. Slag is formed from the combination of silica with flux materials such as soda and potash, along with metal oxides and other impurities that float to the surface. In ceramic kilns, slag is formed by the reaction of the fluxing materials with the refractory lining. Objects made from ancient iron and copper alloys often contain small pieces of slag that were incompletely separated from the metal. Slag is a useful residue incorporated in the manufacture of concrete, mineral wool, slag brick, slag glass, portland cement, and cinder block.

slate (rock)

A very fine-grained, foliated, non-layered metamorphic rock, generally produced by metamorphism of shale under relatively low pressure and temperature. It occurs in many varieties, including clay, hornblende, mica, talc slate, and others, all of which have the common property of splitting readily into thin plates.

slate (roofing)

Material comprising thin, usually rectangular, pieces of slate and other varieties of stone which split readily into laminae, used especially for the purpose of covering the roofs of buildings.

sleeping porches

Porches or rooms having open sides or many windows arranged to permit sleeping in the open air.

soapstone (metamorphic rock)

A very soft rock composed primarily of hydrated magnesium silicate. It is easily cut and has been used for carvings since ancient times. It is usually a white, grayish green, brown or in rare cases, red or black. The stones were carved for bowls, boxes, and small objects such as figurines, beads, seals, amulets, and scarabs. In modern construction, it is used for laboratory sinks, bench tops, and electrical panels. Native soapstone is so soft it can be scratched with a fingernail, but baking results in dehydration and hardening of the stone. Some ancient soapstone carvings were glazed then fired, which produced the mineral enstatite, hard enough to scratch glass.

sod (soil)

Sections of earth together with the grass growing on them, held together with matted roots, usually square or oblong in shape and of moderate thickness, cut out or pared off from the surface of grass land.

soft brick

Weak, non-weather-resistant brick fired at low temperature ranges or remote from the fire in the kiln; suitable for use as backing brick.


Wood that is soft or easily cut, generally restricted to the timber of coniferous trees. Contrasted to "hardwood," which is usually, but not always, harder than softwood.


Unconsolidated material on the earth's surface formed by the weathering of rock and that portion of the earth's surface that can support plant life.

solar collectors

Any devices intended to collect solar radiation and convert it into energy.

solar heating (systems)

Systems supplying heat and hot water by the capture and conversion of radiant energy from the sun.

solar panels

Panels equipped with solar cells, designed to absorb the sun's rays for the express purpose of generating electricity. For devices used to harness the sun's rays for the express purpose of generating electriciry, use "solar panels."

solar water heaters

Water heaters whose primary source of heat energy is the sun.

solid brick

A brick which meets the specifications for a solid masonry unit.

South American mahogany (wood)

Wood of the species Swietenia macrophylla, native to areas in southern North America, Central and South America. It has been introduced for cultivation in Asia. The wood is used for cabinet-making and other purposes.

southern yellow pine (wood)

General term for the wood any of several species of yellow pine tree.

space frames

Trusses in which the members are arranged three-dimensionally rather than in only one plane.

spandrel glass

Clear glass with colored ceramic enamel fired on one side, used for spandrels and similar applications.

Spanish tile

Clay roofing tile, approximately semicylindrical in shape; laid in cornices with the units having their convex sides alternately up and down.

splay brick

A brick, one side of which is beveled.

spruce (wood)

Wood from any of the species of evergreen spruce trees, forming the genus Picea.

stack bond

Technique of purely pattern bond with no overlapping of units, so that all vertical joints are aligned.

stained glass (material)

Refers to glass of various colors created by adding metallic oxides to the molten glass; different oxides create various colors. Stained glass may be conbined with painted glass, which involves fusing pigment onto the surface.

stained glass (visual works)

Refers to works made of colored glass, generally in the form of a window, autonomous panel, or lampshade, in which the design is meant to be observed through refracted light and its effect is greatly dependent on the quality of the light. The stages of manufacture were described in a manual written in the early twelfth century by the monk Theophilus and the process has hardly changed since then. The window or other item is made by cutting pieces of colored glass based on a full-scale cartoon and holding the pieces together by strips of lead. Details may be painted on the surface of the pieces of glass and fired in a kiln before piecing the glass together. The method of weatherproofing and fixing the glass in a window is often highly decorative and forms an important element of the design. The highest achievements in stained glass are thought to be those of the Gothic era in Europe and those of the Gothic Revival of the nineteenth century.

stainless steel

Any of a large number of iron-chromium alloys, widely used for their corrosion resistance and nonrusting quality.

standing seams

Seams, in sheet metal and roofing, made by turning up two adjacent edges and folding the upstanding parts over on themselves.

statuary bronze

Bronze with a smooth, reddish surface, generally composed of 7 to 10% tin, 1 to 3% lead, and the remainder copper; used, for example, to make statues, plaques, and hardware.


Water in the form of an invisible gas or vapor, changed to this form by boiling and used extensively for the generation of mechanical power.

No description is available for this term.

steel (alloy)

Any of various hard, strong, durable, malleable alloys of iron and carbon, often with other elements such as manganese, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, copper, tungsten, cobalt, or silicon; widely used as a structural material.

steel bolts
No description is available for this term.

steel frame construction

Refers to a building technique used primarily in bridges and buildings, in which a skeleton frame of vertical steel columns and horizontal I-beams are constructed in a rectangular grid. The grid is used to support the floors, roof, and walls of the building. The development of this technique made the construction of the skyscraper possible.

steel-to-steel beam hangers

In construction, support or anchoring hangers used to attach two steel members.

stock brick

A term applied to any brick handmade with the aid of a brick stock, a wooden board on which a frame was placed to contain the clay; it is also used to describe the ordinary brick of a locality.

No description is available for this term.

stone (worked rock)

General term for rock that has been cut, shaped, crushed, or otherwise formed for use in construction or other purposes. Includes the specific archaeological and anthropological sense of individual stones which may be decorated or ornamented and which may be used in ritual contexts. These are usually not carved or dressed, and so differ from sculptures made from stone.


Processes having to do with the carving and working of stone, particularly in the context of building.


Building material comprising masonry made of stone.

straw (plant material)

Dried stalks of cereals or other grasses, used for many purposes, including weaving, plaiting, and braiding.


Horizontal bands of masonry, generally narrower than other courses, extending across the face of a wall and in some instances continuing across piers or engaged columns; may be flush or projecting and may be flat surfaced, molded, or otherwise shaped.

structural aluminum

Aluminum in an alloy form for the additional strength necessary for construction purposes. Aluminum is lightweight and corrosion-resistant so it does not require painting, making it an increasingly popular building material. Because aluminum can be extruded, structural shapes can be made economically to meet specific design requirements.

structural clay tile

A hollow clay tile composed of burnt clay, shale, fireclay, or mixtures thereof.

structural glass

Architectural glass introduced in the early 20th century used for interior and exterior wall surfaces. Products included glass building blocks, reinforced plate glass, and pigmented structural glass known under such trade names as Carrara Glass, Sani Onyx (or Rox), and Vitrolite. Structural glass was a popular building material of the Art Deco period, and is no longer manufactured.

structural iron

Iron that has been cast or worked in structural shapes.

structural lumber

Lumber that is intended for use in building where allowable properties are required. The grading of structural lumber is based on the strength or stiffness of the piece as related to anticipated uses, such as lumber that is 5 inches or more in both thickness and width.

structural steel

Steel, rolled in a variety of shapes, such as beams, bars, or sheets, and used as load-bearing structural members.

structural steel

Steel, rolled in a variety of shapes, such as beams, bars, or sheets, and used as load-bearing structural members.


A type of light, malleable plaster made from dehydrated lime (calcium carbonate) mixed with powdered marble and glue and sometimes reinforced with hair. It sets more slowly than regular plaster and so is suitable for crafting sculpture and architectural decoration, external and internal. Differs from most other plasters which are made with calcium sulfate, rather than the calcium carbonate used in stucco, and set much more quickly.


Visual works or parts of works made of stucco.

Styrofoam (TM)

Polystyrene expanded into a multicellular mass that has one-sixth the weight of cork and will withstand temperatures above 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

sugar maple (wood)

Hard, fine-grained wood of the species Acer saccharum, native to the United States and Canada. It is light reddish-brown in color and tends to have bird's eye patterns. It is used for furniture, cabinetry, flooring (dance floors, bowling alleys), musical instruments, and veneer.

sun-dried brick

The earliest type of brick, it is baked in the sun rather than hardened by the heat of a fire. Sun-dried brick has the advantage of being less expensive than fired brick but is generally less durable; it is well-suited to dry climates. For sun-dried brick containing straw and other binders, use the more specific "adobe."


Tracts of lowlying ground in which water collects, particularly wetlands partially or intermittently covered with water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

sycamore (wood)

White to yellowish-white wood of the species Acer pseudoplatanus, having a straight grain and even texture. It is native to central Europe and western Asia, but was introduced into Britain in the 15th century. It is used for turnery, bobbins, brush handles, inlays, veneer, and millwork. For other woods sometimes called simply "sycamore," use "sycamore fig" for wood from Ficus sycamorus and "American sycamore" for wood from the plane tree species Platanus occidentalis.


A phanoerocrystalline intrusive igneous rock composed mostly of alkaline feldspar with or without a smaller amount of plagioclase and without notable quartz or nepheline content. The term can also refer to a granite varietal, quarried in antiquity at Syrene in Upper Egypt, in which biotite is substituted for or accompanied by hornblende.

tabby (cement)

A mixture of lime and water with shell, gravel, or stone which, when dry, is as hard as rock; used as a building material.

tar (material)

Thick, viscous, brown or black, inflammable liquid residue resulting from the partial evaporation or distillation of wood (such as pine, fir, or larch), sugar, tobacco, peat, coal, or other organic substance. It contains hydrocarbons, resins, alcohols, and other compounds; it has a heavy resinous or bituminous odor. It is used as an antiseptic, for coating asphalt roads, preserving timber, caulk on wooden sailing ships, waterproofing for roofing papers, insecticide, in disinfectant soaps. Some tars, such as those obtained from pine or beech wood, have been mixed with linseed oil to form a dark brown glaze and for other purposes.

tar paper

Heavy paper coated or impregnated with tar for use especially in building.


Pendant trimming, decoration, or garment, comprising loose strands. Before the 20th century, usually a wooden mold covered with strands of silk or worsted; now often merely a bunch of threads, cords, or other strands gathered together at the top.

teak (wood)

Wood of the species Tectona grandis, native to south and southeast Asia, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar; it is cultivated in many additional areas, including Africa and the Caribbean. Teak is a golden brown wood with a straight grain and coarse texture, very resistant to insects and decay. It is used for high quality furniture, boxes, chests, doors, shipbuilding, railway carriages, veneer, and in India also for building houses. Teak wood retains an aromatic leathery smell for over a hundred years or more.

Teflon (TM)

A trademarked name for polytetrafluoroethyelene (PTFE) which was discovered by Roy Plunkett 1938 and first marketed as Teflon (TM) by DuPont in 1943. This fluorinated polymer is known for its resistance to adhesion, heat, oxidation, light, and chemicals. It is used chiefly for molding articles and for nonstick cookware.

telephone poles

Utility poles used primarily to support telephone lines or cables.


Paint formed of an emulsion of fatty and watery constituents. The standard emulsion is usually created with egg yolk and water, with variants of man-made emulsions created with whole egg, linseed oil, casein glue, gum, or wax.

Tennessee marble

A coarse, variegated marble from Hawkins County, Tennessee. It is dark chocolate brown or red in color with white streaks and masses throughout and it usually contains some fossils.

Tennessee Pink marble

A fine pink marble, suitable for sculpture, of which a number of varieties exist. Tennessee marbles are generally harder and more compact than other American marbles, making them more suitable for outdoor use but also making them more difficult to carve and polish.

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