The Conservation of Earthen Architectural Heritage in Seismic Areas


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The acceleration of climate change and the increasing frequency of natural disasters mean that there is an urgent need to adapt conservation strategies for architectural heritage to the world’s new demands and situations. This is particularly relevant for the most vulnerable constructions, such as earthen structures. Because of the dramatic effect that earthquakes can have on architecture, and especially on historical monuments, they have been studied for the past 50 years. Earthquakes divide the world in two very distinct geographic areas: seismic and non-seismic. The seismic vulnerability of earthen architectural heritage, such as earthen structures and mud mortar masonry, evidences in by how weak they are when compared to structures built using other construction materials (10 to 15 times weaker). Humanity’s past experience in the conservation of architectural heritage allows us to be aware of the need to improve and eventually perfect the existing conservation charters, which were discussed and signed in Europe in the last century. These charters do not make a distinction between heritage conservation in seismic and non-seismic areas. It is imperative to address this particular issue, as seismic forces can be too strong for earthen constructions to resist, which can lead to their irreparable collapse. Inspired by the Venice Charter and China´s principles as well as by more modern documents, such as the Burra, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Lausana Charters, researchers have tried to establish adequate and resistant conservation guidelines, based on achieving the best structural performance using a minimum permanent and reversible reinforcement. Although this involves causing some impact on the architectural heritage, it also means that human lives and buildings can be protected. The paper will provide real examples to illustrate these cases and will attempt to outline the conservation principles required to protect vulnerable structures, such as those earthen constructions or mud mortar brick or stone masonry built in seismic areas.



Advanced Materials Research (Volumes 133-134)

Edited by:

Xianglin Gu and Xiaobin Song






J. Vargas Neumann "The Conservation of Earthen Architectural Heritage in Seismic Areas", Advanced Materials Research, Vols. 133-134, pp. 65-77, 2010

Online since:

October 2010




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[2] Burra Charter (1979, 1988, 1999). The Australia ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance. www. icomos. org/australia/burra. html.

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_1046

[3] Lausanne Charter (1990). Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage. www. International/icomos. org/lausanne. htm.

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[7] Zimbabwe Charter (2003). Principles for the Analysis, Conservation and Structural Restoration of Architectural Heritage. www. international. icomos. org/zimbabwe. htm.

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