Bikes in a city.

“We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we want to offer an educated guess”


AFRY is proud to launch an e-book about future cities: Predicting the Unpredictable – a Nordic Approach to Shaping Future Cities. The book is a contribution to the discussion on how to plan smart, sustainable and attractive cities for future generations, in times of rapid technological development.

Hello Jonas Gustavsson, CEO, and Helena Paulsson, Head of Urban Development. Could you tell us a bit about why you wrote this book?

“We wanted to discuss where cities and society are heading and explore the concept of the smart city – a buzzword which, despite lacking a clear definition, remains a concept that many city planners and stakeholders take seriously. Therefore, we wanted to take the discussion further and ask: what makes a city attractive for people to live and reside in?” says Helena Paulsson.

“At AFRY we work with all forms of urban development. Cities are built for future generations – but what do we know about their needs in fifty years’ time, let alone twenty or ten? We wanted to identify an approach to change and uncertainty: how should we think when building cities for an era of which we know nothing? This has led us to a number of principles, thoughts and conclusions,” says Helena Paulsson.

“Exactly, we see this book as a great opportunity to discuss some of the questions we have encountered along the way. It also provides a chance for us to look at these issues from a holistic perspective. Technology plays an important part in this, but it’s not the whole answer,” says Jonas Gustavsson.

“We see this book as a great opportunity to discuss some of the questions we have encountered along the way. Having a background within the manufacturing industry, it’s become clear to me that the city of the future is not simply smart. Digitalisation and technological developments will leave their mark on urban development, but progress must be significantly broader than so. Technology should be used to achieve human goals, not the other way around,” says Jonas Gustavsson.

What can you read about in the book?

“We discuss everything from mobility and logistics to water and energy supply. We also ask questions such as: what kind of stresses do global trends like digitalisation and urbanisation put on individuals and climate from the perspective of environmental safety and quality of life? Our inspiration is found in the Nordic cities, which are often counted amongst the greenest and most liveable cities in the world,” says Jonas Gustavsson.

Jonas Gustavsson and Helena Paulsson
Jonas Gustavsson, CEO at AFRY and Helena Paulsson, Head of Urban Development

”In the book, we don’t claim to have all the answers, but we want to offer an educated guess about how we should think when planning cities for future generations, based on Nordic examples. The book also contains interviews with experts in urban planning, digitalisation and mobility, to mention just a few,” says Helena Paulsson.

What consequences do you think the outbreak of Covid-19 will have for cities?

“In many of the conversations I have had in the last year, with both urban planners, architects and municipality representatives, it’s become clear that many believe that the mid-sized city will have a form of renaissance. The main reason for this being that the mega cities of today are facing a lot of challenges, for example in terms of overcrowding, pollution and lack of access to nature – challenges that aren’t as much of an issue in mid-sized cities. This notion was further strengthened in our latest survey about cities, asking thousands of young Europeans about where and how they would like to live. Coming back to Covid-19, I believe this re-discovered attraction of mid-sized cites will only increase, as we continue to rebuild our society after this pandemic,” says Helena Paulsson.

Who is the book written for?

“Everyone, in a way. It is written so that everyone can understand it, without having previous knowledge of, say mobility or energy. However, we think that people with an interest in issues related to society will best be able to absorb and reflect on the questions we ask in the book. We believe students and decision-makers would find it interesting,” says Helena Paulsson.

Do you think you’ll write more books in the future?

“Well, that is too early to say, but we’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on this one and look forward to hearing readers’ thoughts on it,” says Jonas Gustavsson.


The e-book is available to order here or here, and as a hardcover here.

Helena Paulsson - VP and Head of Business Area Architecture and Design

Helena Paulsson

VP and Head of Business Area Architecture and Design

Contact Helena Paulsson

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