Basel project (stone masonry)

In 1356, Basel was subjected to an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 6.9 (SED, 2004); it is the largest known historical earthquake in central-northern Europe. During this earthquake and the fire that followed, large parts of Basel were destroyed. Such an event can occur again at any time in the future. To be prepared, it is essential to evaluate the seismic performance of the existing building stock. The character of the city centre of Basel results largely from its naturally grown fabric of stone masonry buildings from different epochs. Stone masonry buildings belong to the most vulnerable structures under seismic excitation. At the same time, they are part of the Swiss cultural heritage and not only their appearance but also the structure as such should be maintained.

The objective of this project is to contribute to the seismic evaluation of stone masonry buildings by investigating, in particular, the following aspects:

  • Global response of buildings with flexible floors and buildings as part of conglomerates (lead: Pavia).
  • In-plane response of walls and piers accounting for the different stone masonry typologies: Development of numerical, analytical and mechanical models for the prediction of the force-displacement response (lead: EPFL; synergies with Swiss National Science Project on spandrels).
  • Out-of-plane response of walls: Boundary conditions of walls, amplification of motion over wall height and influence of wall-slab connections (lead: EPFL).
  • Retrofit measures suitable for protected stone masonry buildings (lead: Pavia).

The research project is accompanied by continuing education courses to ensure an efficient knowledge transfer into engineering practice.


  • Prof. Andrea Penna & Prof. Guido Magenes (University of Pavia, Italy)
  • Dr. Thomas Wenk (Zurich, Switzerland)


  • Hochbauamt des Kantons Basel-Stadt, Immobilien Basel-Stadt
  • Hazard Prevention Division of the Federal Office of the Environment FOEN

Project duration:

  • January 2015 – December 2018

Figure 1: Holsteinerhof in Basel and corresponding macro-element model

Figure 2: Simulation of a wall response in Opensees by means of a force-based beam element and a newly implemented constitutive law that couples the shear and axial response at the fibre level.