The structural assessment of doubly-curved vaulted masonry structures, such as pavilion vaults, poses challenges specific to their high degree of indeterminacy. Two-dimensional equilibrium analysis methods may provide a lower bound of load or displacement capacity, but they do not accurately describe the three-dimensional (3D) behaviour of these structures, particularly when shear deformation (e.g. sliding) is important. Therefore, discrete element modelling (DEM) methods, which can effectively simulate 3D load re-distribution, have been used to investigate support displacement capacity and corresponding 3D collapse mechanisms. DEM analyses are usually conducted on perfect digital geometries. Meanwhile, both real structures and small-scale physical models have implicit assembly and fabrication imperfections, which may significantly alter their response. The present paper aims to investigate the influence of geometrical and mechanical imperfections by comparing DEM analyses with the results obtained from tests on a scale model. In particular, a new method to simulate imperfections within the DEM framework is proposed, and a DEM parametric analysis is compared to the measured behaviour of a 3D-printed scale model of a pavilion (or cloister) vault on spreading supports. The influence of both mechanical imperfections and geometrical imperfections, due to element geometry deviations or imprecision of the assembly process, have been investigated. Based on these analyses, the three-dimensional behaviour of a pavilion vault subjected to horizontal displacement of the supports is described, and the variability of results due to imperfections is demonstrated. A good agreement between DEM analyses and 3D-printed scale model tests is achieved, in terms of crack patterns and mechanisms. Geometrical imperfections did change the load paths within the vault, as expected, and also influenced the displacement capacity.
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