AT THE groundbreaking ceremony for the National Gallery of Art's East Building, architect I.M. Pei introduced William Mann, project manager for the general contractor, to Mrs. Pei and said "This is the man who is going to make my dream come true."

"But it isn't really me whose making his dream come true," said Mann, who is vice president of Chas. H. Tompins Co. "I'm just the front guy. It's the craftsmen who are figuring out how to do the work and then actually doing it."

They're doing pretty well. The National Gallery has now won 23 craftsmanship awards -- 11 this year, just announced -- from the Washington Building Congress, more than any building in the almost quarter of a century of the awards. The previous record was held by the International Monetary Fund building, also a Tomkins project, which won seven, according to Mann.

The National Gallery of Arts East Building, in its eight years of construction, has become to its craftsworkers the masterwork perhaps of a lifetime. "You know," said Mann the other day, "our people feel like those fellows who built medieval cathedrals."

The craftsmen working on the National Gallery project are that proud. They take pictures of their fine detailing. They bring their children and their wives down to see what they are doing. And most of all, they work hard to make what Leonard Jacobson (Pei's partner, the architect in charge) calls "very sophisticated design" really work.

"This building isn't easy," Mann explained. "I've never seen a marble floor laid in triangles for instance. Marble is just like handling glass. You can knock those points of the corners in a minute. I know, I tried to lay one and broke it. The joints are just 1/16 inch. That takes some doing. But the men on that job worked out a way to get them in. Another marble job that was difficult was the assembly of the marble on the hand rail of the escalator. It fits perfectly."

Mann says he thinks "Washington is blessed more than most cities with workmen who get a person satisfaction from their jobs. They all went to see the model of the building before we started. We try to call them together and tell them when the building's been praised. Some of the craftsmen really appreciate it. One man told me that was the first time he'd ever been praised on a job in his life.

Today, few if any names are known of the great craftsworkers who built the pyramids of Egypt, the cathedrals of France or the temples of Mexico. Not so with the crafsworkers of the modern monuments going up today in Washington. To honor the skill and experience of today's master craftspeople, the Washington Building Congress established the craftsmanship awards.

Runners up after the National Galery's East Building, each with three awards, were Rizzoli Bookstore in Georgetown's The Foundry and 818 Connecticut Avenue NW.

The list of the honored craftspeople and their specialties makes up a useful directory of some of Washington's highest regarded master craftsmen.

The Winners

Marblework: Richard Jarboe, Eugene L. Kirby, Harold Diston, Lawrence Swinburn, James Shahdy and Fred Thomas of Atles Tile and Marble Works, Inc. "Corners of triangular marble columnns were fitted joined and the marble grain was matched with such skill as to make the joints indiscernable." The team developed a technique set the equilateral triangle marble floor the maintaining 1/16 inch joints.

Field Surveying: John C. Matheson of Charles M. Tomkins Co. "The unusual shape and its architectural treatment made it necessary that all lines and grades be very carefully laid out . . . The precision and beauty of the completed building proficient manner with which this work was done."

Precast concreta: Raymond Vance, of Thomason Industries, Co. for "extreme care and precision" in installing the circular precast treads on the concrete columns so the glass rails would fit.

Ornamental ironwork: Dominic Morist of F.H. Sparks Co. of Maryland for the innovative way he coordinated the electrical light rack and connections to the mechanical duct system and his workmanship on a unique triangular ceiling grid. His work prevented a big delay in the installation.

Ornamental iron: Frank A. Cordice and Frank Micle, of A.B. Maddision Co. who installed the stainless steel shoes on the bridges and triangular stairs and belical handrails on round concrete columns.

Special doors: Gerard Offen of Williamsburg Steel Products, for his "exceptional skill and discretion" in installing special hollow metal doors and frames cut on the bias."

Special doors: Oilver Cooney of National Folding Wall, for the "The adjustment of the operating mechanism is so precise that the very massive sections can be easily moved . . . by a single person."

Skylights: Norbert Wichman of Super Sky Products for "exceptional ability" in aligning and assembling the complex pyramidal skylight crystals.

Electrical: John P.O'Brien of Howard P. Foley Co. for his coordination and skill in installing the lighting control switching.

Electrical John Bales, also of Foley, for the innovative work on the electrical system.

Elevators Joseph F. Lawier, Brian J. O'Donnell, Bernard V. Myies, and H.F. Krenkal of Otis Elevator Co. for their "ingenuity" in placing exactly the hexagonal elevators with rails in unusual locations dictated by the building's geometry.

Awards for other buildings were won by these craftsworker.

Ornamental iron: Frank Avenooso of Fred S. Gichner Iron Works, Inc. for the heavy steel ornamental gates which replace the original ornate cast iron gates broken by a man who invaded the White House lawn by driving his car through them.

Masonry: John Verdin of Bricklaying, Inc. for laying oversize and standard bricks together with good alignment and jointing, for 818 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Millwork: Howard E. Cox, Washington Woodworking Co. Inc. for the joinery of sloping and mouldings in the National 4-H Center, and for the stile and rall raised peneling in 818 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Ornamental iron: Vendemis, Charles A. Gray and Robert F. Kincely of Joras for the intricate work on a steel and aluminum curves and elipees job at 818 Connecticut Ave.

Carpentry: Robert Gottlied of Lank Woodwork, Co. Inc. for the millwork for the upper rostrum of the Longworth House Office building.

Carpentry: Qustani Kaiboi, also of Lank, for the precision of his joinery in the library of Dr. Kelly Fortune.

Carpentry: Mirxa J. Maroof, also of Lank, for the casework, paneling and niches of the Rissoll Book-store.

Carpentry Joesph Kiser and Roy Pearson of Commercial Carpentry Corp. for the installation of bookcases and trimming in the Rissoll Bookstore.

Millwork Engelbert Boos, Robert and Mark Gootlied of Lank for the Rissoli Bookstore.

Carpentry: John James of Martin Brothers Inc. for the instation and paneling and ornamental spiking of Memorial Hall, All Saints Church.

Carpentry and Millwork: Robert A. Weaver, James G. Davis Construction, for the cabinetwork in the James G. Davis residence.

Carpentry: Weaver and G. Steven Wolford of Davis Construction, for their installation of paneling and mouldings in the executive offices of the Southern Railway Building.

Exposed aggregate: Louis Gtroliami of Peter Bratti Associates Inc. for the exposed aggregate on the Bratti Building 30-foot high circular rotunde.

Painting: Thomas Buriewanger of Myers-Christianeen Co. for marblising the celling beams at Bloomingdale's White Flint Mall.

Paintic Gerald Whoolery of Edward W. Minte Co. a two-tone glasing finish on the walls and fixtures of Eastern Liberty Federal Savings & Loan, also Wisconsin Ave NW.

Painting: Henry Messina of Washington Woodworking, United Nuclear Corp. and the furniture finish in the lobby lounge of the Sheraton Carlton Hotel.

Wallcovering: Warren G. Jackson of Myers-Christiansen Co. for applying wallcovering Bloomingdale's White Flint.

Wallcovering: August Merkel of Edward W. Minite Co. for wallpapering the Abe Pollin residence and Shoreham West, apartment 517.

Electrical work Robert N. Beach of Truland Corp. for electrical work at the National Institutes of Health.

Electrical Edward Kline of Howard P. Foley Co. for installing a mile of cable tray in the Columbia Liquid Natural Gas Terminal, Cove Point Md.

Cast-in-place concrete: Willie Lewis, David A. Keys Jr. Dolphes Lity and Harry Masoa of Geo. Hyman Construction Co, cast-in-place concrete for the Georgetown University Hospital Parking Structure.

Metalwork: Harry D. Blankenship, Kenneth Couch and John D. Vendemia of A.F. Jorss Iron works Inc. for the stainless steel wall of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Millwork William Eaton and Alan Jones of Washington Woodworking Co. for building the matched wainut veneer U-shaped conferences table of the Organization of American States.

Millwork Riched Snyder and Jerry Scheafter of Washington Woodworking, for matching the plywood on a curving design at the United Nuclear Corp.

Millwork William Beaton and John Lee of Washington Woodworking for the wainut veneer tables at United Nuclear Corp.

Painting : Ted Burks and Ronald Reed of Wallcovering Servic e Co. for the restoration of the brilliantly colored Greek decoration of the frieze in the atrium of the Supreme Council, 33rd Degree Masons.

Painting: Fritz Gerdes and Gerald Whooley of Edward W. Minte, for the brushed glass surface in apartment 517 of Shoreham West.

Electrical: Oscar Ortis and Richard Stepp of E.C. Ernst, Inc., for work at Blue Plains Treatment Plant.

Electrical: Everett Alcorn and John Hannon of Walter C. Doe Co., for installation of electrical works at the Children's Hospital National Medical Center.