Architect-painter, astronomer and archaeologist
Fernando Resende da Silva Magalhães Lanhas was born in the parish of Vitória, in Porto, on 16 September 1923. His father, Luís da Cunha Magalhães Lanhas, was a fabric trader and his mother, Maria Amélia Resende da Silva Magalhães Lanhas, a dressmaker. He lived at 74 José Falcão Street until the death of his parents.
The issues of the origins of mankind and the knowledge of the universe always troubled him, and these worries reflected in his first artistic works and scientific research.
In the academic year 1941-1942, he enrolled in the Special Architecture Course at the Porto Fine Arts School, and in 1945 in the Architecture Course at the same university. He completed his studies in 1947 with a project on the construction of a museum, for which he received 19 out of 20 marks.
While studying at ESBAP, he proved to be a diligent and committed student, heading the Fine Arts Student Group. He discussed art with fellow colleagues Nadir Afonso and Júlio Pomar, and began to paint figurative paintings, which quickly transformed into abstract art. In 1944, he organized the Independent Exhibitions of ESBAP Students, and in 1945 collaborated in the art section of the Porto daily newspaper "A Tarde". In 1947, he travelled to Paris, where he visited and enjoyed many art events, such as the Sallon des Réalités Nouvelles.
Between 1948 and 1951, he published his drawings in the art, scientific and literary journal Portucale, Revista de Cultura Literária, Científica e Artística, and participated in several exhibitions. In 1951, he entered the professorship competition to teach at Vocational Technical Education level and sat the exams to obtain the diploma in Architecture. In that same year, along with architects Viana de Lima, Arménio Losa and Cassiano Barbosa, he organized an Architecture exhibition sponsored by the Organization of Modern Architects, held in Porto and in the following year in Aveiro, and produced a map showing the colour diagram in the paintings of Dominguez Alvarez.
In 1953, he married Maria Luísa Pereira Viana, with whom he had two sons. In that same year, he exhibited his work in Lisbon, Brazil and Venice, developed several architecture projects and began making collages.
In 1954, he directed the first and second editions of Publicações de Arte Contemporânea [Contemporary Art Publications] and participated in the 1st Abstract Art Salon. From 1954 to 1958, he designed a project for a house. In 1956, he worked as trainee architect at Porto Higher Institute of Fine Arts, and between 1958 and 1962 focused on the project entitled "Casa do Espaço" [The Space House].
From the 60s on, he developed a taste for the study of this type of knowledge. In 1963, he prepared the "Quadro Geral do Universo" [General Picture of the Universe], in 1965 built a small-scale of "Grupo Local das Galáxias" [Local Group of Galaxies], at the end of the 70s studied the hypothesis of a universe with a predominance of a progressive central span; in the 70s, at the current Garcia de Orta High School, he created the Cosmography Room, the first one of its kind in Portugal, recognised by NASA due to its educational relevance. Because of this, a student of the school was invited to attend the launch of Apollo14. Unfortunately, this room disappeared in the post-25 April 1974 period. In 1974, he built a "Cosmoscope", a book containing the various events of the universe, and in 1982 he set up a diorama of Astronomy at the National Museum of Paredes; at the same time, he prepared the "Carta das distâncias entre o Sol e algumas estrelas" [Map with the distances between the Sun and some stars].
He also left his mark as an amateur archaeologist, writing the "Inventário dos lugares com interesse Arqueológico" [The inventory of places of archaeology interest], which was published in 1965 in collaboration with D. Domingos de Pinho Brandão. In addition to Archaeology, he was also interested in Palaeontology, Biology and Geology. In 1968, he prepared a study on the signalling of archaeology monuments. In 1969, he published articles with comments on his research work in the journal Revista de Etnografia. In 1970, he participated in the 2nd National Congress of Archaeology held in Coimbra, publishing, in 1971, articles in the respective conference minutes together with D. Domingos de Pinho Brandão. In 1972, he participated in the 2nd Archaeology Conferences in Lisbon. Some of his archaeology findings include the S. Paio fortifications, in Labruge (1967) and the rock paintings in Monte da Luz, Foz do Douro (1972).
The taste for Museology acquired in his school years was revived in the 80s. He designed and executed the set up of collections in the National Museum of Figueira da Foz, the Monographic Museum of Conímbriga, the Military Museum of Porto and the Library-Municipal Museum of Paredes. He also designed the Museum of Mineralogy of the Faculty of Sciences of Porto and the Centre for Popular Art and Culture, in Vila Nova de Famalicão.
When Fernando Lanhas made 82 years, the Higher Institute of Fine Arts celebrated its 225th anniversary of Teaching of Fine Arts. Therefore, the FBAUP proposed to distinguish his former student, Fernando Lanhas, giving him the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Porto. The proposal was endorsed by several professors of the Faculty of Fine Arts at April 5, 2005. Approved at a meeting of the Senate Plenary on 12th October 2005, the ceremony took place on the 29th of the next month.
He was a man of many interests. Besides being an architect, he was also a painter, designer, poet, archaeologist, astronomer and collector.
As an architect, he focused mostly on design and prefered the simple and functional forms, revealing the influence Bauhaus had on him. He liked to design urban, modern houses, yet respecting tradition, and educational museums. Some of his many works include: the Casa do Espaço project (1958-1962) - which never came into fruition; a building for rental purposes, Porto (1957); houses in Porto and Espinho (1959, 1970); the exhibition pavilion in Matosinhos (1964); the Monographic Museum of Conímbriga (1982) and the Art and Cultural Centre of S. Pedro de Bairro, in Famalicão (1986).
Although he was not considered a painter, he was one of the pioneers of geometric abstract art in Portugal. His work 02-44 and O Violino, shown for the first time in 1945 at the 2nd Independent Exhibition in Lisbon, which today is part of the CAM [Modern Art Centre] collection, is an historical landmark in Portuguese painting. In a time when many artists followed the Neo-Realist trend, Lanhas chose a revolutionary path. His pictorial work was done in watercolours, serigraphies, painting on pebbles, collages and xylographs. In terms of design, he was a modern designer, combining the ability of expression with the virtuosity of form.
Although he does not considered himself a poet, he had nevertheless written very formal poems characterized by the containment of ideas. He had always been most concerned with setting down in writing the dreams of the dreamer itself.
The interest in archaeology and astronomy came from his relentless search for the origins, which extended to collecting several types of articles, for e.g., fossils, pebbles, sand from different parts of the world, rocks, toys, labels and adverts, which he labels properly. He was also interested in photography, in particular old photography.
He died at his home in Porto on February 4, 2012, victim of a stroke.
(Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2008)