Despite the high vulnerability of historic structures to earthquakes, the approaches for evaluating seismic demand and capacity still appear inadequate and there is little consensus on the most appropriate assessment methods to use. To develop an improved knowledge on the seismic behavior of masonry structures and the reliability of analysis tools, two real-scale specimens were tested on a shake table, and several experts were invited to foresee failure mechanism and seismic capacity within a blind prediction test. Once unveiled, experimental results were simulated using multi-block dynamics, finite elements, or discrete elements. This article gathers the lessons learned and identifies issues requiring further attention. A combination of engineering judgment and numerical models may help to identify the collapse mechanism, which is as essential as it is challenging for the seismic assessment. To this purpose, discrete modeling approaches may lead to more reliable results than continuous ones. Even when the correct mechanism is identified, estimating the seismic capacity remains difficult, due to the complexity and randomness of the seismic response, and to the sensitivity of numerical tools to input variables. Simplified approaches based on rigid body dynamics, despite the considerable experience and engineering judgment required, provide as good results as do advanced simulations.

Keywords: blind test prediction, discrete element method, finite element method, limit analysis, masonry, out-of-plane, rigid-body dynamics, seismic assessment, shake table testing

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