A new hierarchical architectural classification for clastic marginal-marine depositional systems is presented and illustrated with examples. In ancient rocks, the architectural scheme effectively integrates the scales of sedimentology (core, outcrop) and sequence stratigraphy (wireline-log correlation, reflection seismic). The classification also applies to modern sediments, which allows for direct comparison of architectural units between modern and ancient settings. In marginal-marine systems, the parasequence typically defines reservoir flow units. This classification addresses subparasequence scales of stratigraphy that commonly control fluid flow in these reservoirs. The scheme consists of seven types of architectural units that are placed on five architectural hierarchy levels: hierarchy level I: element (E) and element set (ES); hierarchy level II: element complex (EC) and element complex set (ECS); hierarchy level III: element complex assemblage (ECA); hierarchy level IV: element complex assemblage set (ECAS); and hierarchy level V: transgressive-regressive sequence (T-R sequence). Architectural units in levels I to III are further classified relative to dominant depositional processes (wave, tide, and fluvial) acting at the time of deposition. All architectural units are three-dimensional and can also be expressed in terms of plan-view and cross-sectional geometries. Architectural units can be linked using tree data structures by a set of familial relationships (parent-child, siblings, and cousins), which provides a novel mechanism for managing uncertainty in marginal-marine systems. Using a hierarchical scheme permits classification of different data types at the most appropriate architectural scale. The use of the classification is illustrated in ancient settings by an outcrop and subsurface example from the Campanian Bearpaw–Horseshoe Canyon Formations transition, Alberta, Canada, and in modern settings, by the Mitchell River Delta, northern Australia. The case studies illustrate how the new classification can be used across both modern and ancient systems, in complicated, mixed-process depositional environments.

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