A half-century of rocking isolation

  • Makris, Nicos (Division of Structures, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Patras)
  • Received : 2014.01.23
  • Accepted : 2014.05.30
  • Published : 2014.12.25


The uplifting and rocking of slender, free-standing structures when subjected to ground shaking may limit appreciably the seismic moments and shears that develop at their base. This high-performance seismic behavior is inherent in the design of ancient temples with emblematic peristyles that consist of slender, free-standing columns which support freely heavy epistyles together with the even heavier frieze atop. While the ample seismic performance of rocking isolation has been documented with the through-the-centuries survival of several free-standing ancient temples; and careful post-earthquake observations in Japan during the 1940's suggested that the increasing size of slender free-standing tombstones enhances their seismic stability; it was George Housner who 50 years ago elucidated a size-frequency scale effect that explained the "counter intuitive" seismic stability of tall, slender rocking structures. Housner's 1963 seminal paper marks the beginning of a series of systematic studies on the dynamic response and stability of rocking structures which gradually led to the development of rocking isolation-an attractive practical alternative for the seismic protection of tall, slender structures. This paper builds upon selected contributions published during this last half-century in an effort to bring forward the major advances together with the unique advantages of rocking isolation. The paper concludes that the concept of rocking isolation by intentionally designing a hinging mechanism that its seismic resistance originates primarily from the mobilization of the rotational inertia of its members is a unique seismic protection strategy for large, slender structures not just at the limit-state but also at the operational state.


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