Abstract The plane stress solution for the interaction analysis of a framed structure, with a foundation beam, resting on a layered soil has been studied using both theoretical and photoelastic methods. The theoretical analysis has been done by using a combined analytical and finite element method. In this, the analytical solution has been used for the semi-infinite layered medium and finite element method for the framed structure. The experimental investigation has been carried out using two-dimensional photoelasticity in which modelling of the layered semi-infinite plane and a method to obtain contact pressure distribution have been discussed. The theoretical and experimental results in respect of contact pressure distribution between the foundation beam and layered soil medium, the fibre stresses in the foundation beam and framed structure have been compared. These results have also been compared with theoretical results obtained by idealizing the layered semi-infinite plane as (a) a Winkler model and (b) an equivalent homogeneous semi-infinite medium.