The limitations of sophisticated analytical modelling and experimental investigations for studying complex masonry structures have increased the use of numerical modelling, such as the Discrete Element Method (DEM). Based on this approach, the discontinuous bodies can move freely in space and interact reciprocally with contact forces, leading to an automatic updating of contact detection. In this work, the potential of the DEM is first demonstrated for the assessment of the first-order seismic behaviour of generally shaped vaulted structures in 2D. The relative efficiency of different arch shapes is analysed comparatively such as circular, pointed or basket-handle shapes. The full dynamics and resistance of discrete columns subjected to simple base excitations is additionally studied, with a detailed investigation on failure domains and on modes of collapse of the structures. A parametric evaluation of the sensitivity of the response to the input parameters is numerically performed, which gives more confidence to the DEM predictions.
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