Revealing disconnections in an Eastern European special economic zone

Ina Valkanova

This short paper presents the work-in-progress of research aimed at a meaningful transformation of a large-scale infrastructure space in Bulgaria. As part of an action research doctoral project, the paper explores the possibilities for the transformation of Trakia economic zone TEZ from an extractive operation into a space with local value. Starting from the ideological position that change is always possible, the research test how we can counteract the dominant global narrative of contemporary production from a local perspective.

The paper describes the historical development of the industrial zone, highlights how the complex-mix of actors design use and transform the spatial reality of TEZ, and presents three tensions that occur in the actual reality of TEZ. Those tensions are not isolated processes but are instead part of an ecosystem of ambitions, perceptions, and activities. Therefore, we need to employ a systemic understanding of tensions to produce long-lasting change. The presented questions in the paper seek to raise a debate about the nature of tensions, their conceptual frameworks, and possible action strategies for activating tensions thoughtfully.

Keywords: capital-led development, infrastructure space, soft-system methodology, transformation, action research

Citation Data

Author(s): Ina Valkanova
Title: Tensions of Infrastructure Space
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 3 September 2021
Last update:
Publisher Identification:

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


Verified by MonsterInsights