75428 - Historic Masonry and Wood Structures M

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the class, student has knowledge of the fundamentals for the analysis of historical masonry and timber structures, including the knowledge of theoretical aspects, numerical tools and experimental tools for an effective structural diagnosis of historic structures aiming at their conservation or rehabilitation. In particular, at the end of the course he/she is able to identify relevant phenomenology regarding collapse, to design provisional support and to conceive suitable reinforcement of historical building.

Course contents


1 Introduction to Structural Masonry

1.1 Advantages and disadvantages of Structural Masonry

1.2 Morphology of historical masonry

1.3 Masonry Stonework

1.4 Masonry Brickwork

1.5 Stress distribution (percolation of stress)

1.6 Some consideration about damage and units arrangement

2 Masonry mechanical behavior and performances

2.1 Masonry mechanical properties

2.2 Compressive strength based on elastic theories

2.3 Local-global failure of masonry

2.4 Masonry Quality Index

3 The rigid no-tension model

3.1 The unit resistant Masonry Cell

3.2 Consideration on realistic admissible domain

4 The masonry continuum

4.1 Compatibility conditions

4.2 Photo-elasticity and masonry

4.3 Displacements field and kinematic compatibility conditions

4.4 The boundary of the cracked body

5 Equilibrium and compatibility

5.1 Principle of virtual work (PVW)

5.2 Dead and live loads

5.3 Mechanism state

5.4 Collapse state

5.5 The static theorem

5.6 The kinematic theorem

5.7 Uniqueness of the collapse multiplier

6 Masonry arches: the concept of thrust and limit analysis

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Bearing capacity of the arch

6.2.1 Limit analysis of the arch

6.3 Minimum and maximum Thrust

6.4 Use of the limit analysis to estimate the pressure curve

6.5 Extreme lines of thrust, joints and associated mechanisms

7 Vaulted systems

7.1 Elastic solution: membrane state in cylindrical vaults

7.2 Transition from the uncracked to the cracked state. The no tension model applied to barrel vaults

7.3 Cross vaults

8 Domes

8.1 The implemented Static approach

8.2 Membrane state in domes

8.3 From membrane state to cracked state

9 Piers

9.1 Eccentricity and masonry piers

9.2 Yokel approach for piers

9.3 Photo elastic experimental tests on prismatic rectangular dry-stone pillars

10 Walls

10.1 Kinematic analysis

10.2 About safety check



1. Timber Properties

1.1 Material anisotropy

1.2 Moisture and long duration effects

1.3Effects of timber properties on structural analysis and detailing

2. Timber Structures

2.1 Structural typologies of wooden floors, ceilings, and roofs recurring in Italian, European and Asiatic historical buildings

2.2 Historical timber buildings

2.3 Review of loading formulation: static and seismic loading

2.4 Design standards for timber structures

2.5 Static design concepts within the limit design approach

2.6 Design of structural members: beam, floor diaphragms, trusses

3. Timber joints

3.1 Overview on traditional carpenter connections

3.2 Mechanical fastener systems

3.3 Design of timber joints and typological details

4. Diagnosis and damage analyses of wood structures

4.1 Visual and instrumental inspection techniques and reference standards

4.2 Methods for the classification of grade and essence of existing wooden members according to current code guidelines

4.3 Damage analysis techniques of existing wooden members, carpenter joints and connections



  • Comprehensive teacher course Handout (Book version freely available for students);

  • Statics of Historic Masonry Constructions, M. Como, Springer, 2013.

  • The Stone Skeleton, J. Heyman, Cambridge University Press, 1995.

  • Historic Construction and Conservation: Materials, Systems and Damage, P. Roca, P. Lourenco, A Gaetani, Routledge; 1st ed. 2019.

  • Structural brickwork, A.W.Hendry, MacMillan, 1981.

  • The Construction of Gothic Cathedrals, J. Fitchen, The Univ. Chicago Press, 1961.

  • Fracture and Size Effect (in concrete and other quasi-brittle materials), Z.P. Bazant and J. Planas, CRC Press, 1998



  • EN 1995-1-1 (2004) (English): Eurocode 5: Design of timber structures - Part 1-1: General - Common rules and rules for buildings

  • Structural Timber Design to Eurocode 5, Jack Porteous, Abdy Kermani Edited by John Wiley & Sons, 2008 ISBN 047069792X

  • Structural Timber Design, Abdy Kermani Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (December 11, 1998) ISBN: 0632050918

Teaching methods

The course content will be entirely covered by the lectures.

The course includes some invited keynote lectures, which will help cover the practical aspects of the lectures.

The instructors will supervise students during all activities.

Assessment methods

A full comprehensive final (written and oral) exam will be used to assess students’ knowledge and understanding of the topics covered in the course. A final project will be presented by the student

The final exam will be organized as follows:

WRITTEN TEST (delivered using the EOL system):

  • 20 random question about theoretical aspects developed during Module 1;
  • 1 exercise to solve about kinematic analysis of masonry structures (a wall, an arch or a wall with openings);
  • 10 random question about theoretical aspects developed during Module 2;


  • colloquium of 5-20 minutes about a particular theoretical aspect of Module N.1;
  • colloquium of 5-20 minutes about a particular theoretical aspect of Module N.2;


  • Homeworks will be assigned during the course (for both the Modules);
  • Homeworks are mandatory activity in order to access the final exam test activity.


Before the end of the course, a self-evaluation test will be delivered for some of the course topics.

This self-evaluation test proposes 30 random questions among some of the all possible exam questions related to theoretical aspects. The time provided is forty minutes (that is the same time we will provide for the final exam). In the self evaluation exam the students can attempt the test as many times as he/she wants. Then, the solution is provided as soon as the answer is submitted.


Teaching tools

The course will be delivered in blended modality: half of the course in class and half of the lectures online.

The online teaching will be delivered using mainly Microsoft Teams. The software Zoom will be also used for specific activities.

The instructor will use PDF slides to be annotated during the lecture using a tablet device. Clean and annotated slides will be provided to the students.

Recording of the lectures will be turned on by the instructor at the beginning of the lecture.

During the lectures the teacher will use small models and videos to better clarify some concepts.

In the absence of obstacles (i.e. social distancing or covid19 emergency), the course includes the organization of guided tours on the field to local cultural heritage historical structures.

Office hours

See the website of Giovanni Castellazzi

See the website of Diego Alejandro Talledo