Seismic Assessment of Complex Historical Buildings: Application to Reggio Emilia Cathedral, Italyby Filippo Casarin, Claudio Modena

International Journal of Architectural Heritage


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Seismic Assessment of Complex

Historical Buildings: Application to

Reggio Emilia Cathedral, Italy

Filippo Casarin a & Claudio Modena a a Department of Structural and Transportation Engineering (DCT) ,

University of Padova , Padova, Italy

Published online: 11 Dec 2008.

To cite this article: Filippo Casarin & Claudio Modena (2008) Seismic Assessment of Complex

Historical Buildings: Application to Reggio Emilia Cathedral, Italy, International Journal of Architectural Heritage: Conservation, Analysis, and Restoration, 2:3, 304-327, DOI: 10.1080/15583050802063659

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Filippo Casarin and Claudio Modena

Department of Structural and Transportation Engineering (DCT), University of

Padova, Padova, Italy

The definition of structural safety of a historical masonry structure is still a concept that is somewhat difficult to interpret. Whereas for new masonry structures, it is possible to have useful indications about their structural behavior, as the analysis turns to ‘‘historical’’ constructions such a task became increasingly more difficult. Furthermore, the needs of preservation of the historical, cultural, and architectural essence of the building inmany cases contrast with the needs of providing the ‘‘adequate’’ capacity to its structure, especially in order to withstand the design seismic loads. The study presented in the article is related to the definition of a knowledge and safety assessment path, concerning masonry religious buildings with a monumental character. A complex building, the SantaMaria Assunta (Our Lady of the Assumption) Cathedral in Reggio Emilia (Italy), is studied in order to evaluate its structural behavior thus defining its seismic vulnerability, by using different investigation and analysis methodologies.

KEY WORDS: cultural heritage masonry buildings, seismic assessment, non-linear numerical modeling, limit analysis, non-destructive techniques, sonic pulse velocity test, dynamic identification 1. INTRODUCTION

The definition of interpretative models that can properly identify the actual seismic behavior of different structural types of masonry cultural heritage buildings, is currently a topic of great interest in Italy. The relatively recent force of new national seismic standards (Ordinance of the Prime Minister (OPCM) 3274/2003 and successive supplements and modification)—with rather innovative contents for what concerns the seismic evaluation of existing masonry buildings—boosted this process. In fact, the standard requires the seismic verification of the so-called strategic buildings, safety of which is considered relevant in case of a seismic event, and of buildings for which collapse may entail a severe risk for public safety. A considerable sample of these buildings belongs to the national cultural heritage.

In the past two decades, the historic buildings seismic assessment process has been reconsidered. Code requirements were previously oriented to a concept of seismic upgrading of the structures, based on the safety level required for new buildings (Binda

International Journal of Architectural Heritage, 2: 304–327, 2008

Copyright  Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

ISSN: 1558-3058 print / 1558-3066 online

DOI: 10.1080/15583050802063659

Address correspondence to Filippo Casarin, Department of Structural and Transportation Engineering (DCT), University of Padova, Via Marzolo, 9-35131Padova, Italy. E-mail:

Received 15 June 2007; accepted 18 March 2008. 304

D ow nl oa de d by [C hin es e U niv ers ity of

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D ec em be r 2 01 4 and Saisi, 2005). The inadequacy of the requirements’ applicability to historic buildings has been demonstrated (Valluzzi et al., 2001; Borri et al., 2004). It is in fact currently accepted, from the structural damage observation after several seismic events recorded in recent decades, that the actual response of an existing masonry building to horizontal actions can hardly be defined, in most cases, by just considering the global behavior of the structure. The large-scale observation of local damage characteristics, following the seismic event, indicated the necessity to also evaluate the seismic response of individual structural elements, thus implementing suitable structural models (Borri et al. 1999). In particular, it was observed a pronounced seismic vulnerability connected to religious buildings, since they generally feature remarkable dimensions and masses, reduced horizontal connections, high masonry elements lacking orthogonal stabilizing walls and vaults and arches that can increase their thrust following the seismic event.