Humans of enCity: Elizelle David – The resident graphics guru of our Singapore office

Elizelle David is an Associate at enCity specialising in planning and urban design. With a background in architecture, she has a keen eye for designing people-centric spaces and is the resident graphics guru of the Singapore office. Here she speaks about being part of the enCity vision – and why that includes working out at F45!

enCity: What would you say your favourite thing about enCity is?

Elizelle David: I like how we have this very friendly, very flat hierarchy. We can talk directly to people in higher positions, like Trang and Dzung, without having to go through an assortment of different associates. I also like how we have this wholesome kind of working culture, where we do sports and teambuilding and so on. I realised a lot about myself through these. When we did F45, it was my first time trying it out. I’ve never been to the gym, and I surprisingly enjoyed it. I didn’t know I would end up doing five days in a row! So I grow not just professionally, but personally.

Singapore office team at F45

enCity: When did you join enCity, and what attracted you to the company?

Elizelle David: Dzung actually messaged me out of the blue. He saw my LinkedIn and was interested in interviewing me. I had just graduated from NUS and was looking for a job at the time, and it was a very convincing talk. He was very passionate about how he described enCity, and his goals for this new company. I was really interested in the diverse set of projects from industrial townships to residential communities, since I was still starting out and I wanted to have this diverse experience as a planner and a designer. So I joined in October 2019.

enCity: That seems to be a theme across these interviews, that Dzung is a very convincing interviewer.

Elizelle David: There’s just something about the way he talks about enCity – it makes you feel as if you want to be part of this vision. If you have this aspiration of creating better environments, and sustainability and inclusivity in the urban setting, you really feel drawn to work for enCity.

enCity: In the year and a half you’ve been with enCity, what projects stand out for you?

Elizelle David: The most memorable would have to be Ben Tre provincial planning, because it was the first project I ever did, and it was a huge shock to me. It was very overwhelming because it was a whole province. 

enCity: Right in the deep end!

Elizelle David: Exactly. I had been doing urban design and architecture before that, and suddenly it was a whole new scale of very high level planning. It was the first time I saw how complex the realm of planning is in the real world. We had consultants from Roland Berger advising on economics and policies, and experts on our side for resilience and environment, as well as policy makers. It’s very different from architecture, where you have different consultants but it’s more inward-facing. With planning, you have to consider so many things, so people with diverse experiences have to come together to create a very comprehensive plan, for the benefit of a large amount of people. I was able to see these many layers of planning first-hand, on my first project with enCity.

Map of Ben Tre Strategic Development Vision

The other project that stands out would have to be STIP. It was my first experience with an integrated industrial township model, including high tech and research and development. I really like how we considered the future of manufacturing, and how collaboration is really key to making these development models successful. I also enjoyed doing the urban design and planning, because you go deep into the communities to figure out how to access amenities, create linkages, and build public realms that facilitate interactions between the campus, the researchers, the business, the industries and the community.

Science Technology Industrial Park (STIP) Binh Duong

Other renderings of STIP Binh Duong

enCity: You grew up in the Philippines, in greater metro Manila, and now work in Singapore. How would you say your time in these cities has influenced your approach to your work?

Elizelle David: Life in the Philippines is very different to Singapore. There are formal planning guidelines, but the implementation still needs work. It’s messy, but you see a lot of bottom-up interventions, which are really inspiring. Because I’ve been exposed to that environment, I appreciate planning not just as a top-down approach the way consultants do it, but also seeing what comes from these grassroots interventions. You also come to appreciate everyday things like transport. In the Philippines, the train will come maybe every 20 minutes, sometimes more. There’s never a certain schedule. In Singapore, where you get a train in three, four minute intervals, when it becomes five or six minutes people complain already.

What has inspired me about Singapore’s approach is that they really plan for inclusivity and cater to all socio-economic classes. In the Philippines, it’s very hierarchical and segregated in terms of social structure. You don’t get the same quality of life if you’re poor or if you’re rich. For example, because we’re very car-oriented, it’s hard to get to basic urban amenities if you’re low income and have to ride public transit. In Singapore, even though there is some divide, you still get basic services like access to parks and amenities within walking distance. That’s what I really appreciate, and hopefully I can apply it at home where possible. 

enCity: If you had to choose a different career, what do you think you would do?

Elizelle David: During high school, I was torn between architecture and medicine. I actually applied for pre-med biology. I’ve always been fascinated by human anatomy, and I like science (biology, not chemistry). Although in a very whimsical universe, there was another career path I was considering – being a detective. I guess it was because I like observing things – that’s how I learn about places and people. In an alternative life, that’s probably the career I would end up in.

Thanks Elizelle!

Heather Banerd