For years Washington members of the Potomac Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects have raked in the awards.

Probably the biggest Washington award winners have been Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon and Hartman/Cox. Keyes, etc., has won about a fourth of all awards given in the past three decades or so, despite the safeguard that the names of the architects are concealed, the juries are different every year and are usually from out of town.

Finally, the Potomac Valley chapter (which is primarily Maryland architects) decided to bar Washington architects from the competition. So the Washington Metropolitan Chapter has done the sensible thing. This year, for the first time, they have their own awards. So guess, who won the five awards in new competition? That's right, Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon (now Keyes, Condon and Florance) and Hartman/Cox.

According to the ground rules, the architects were allowed to submit work finished as early as Jan. 1, 1971. Though both firms submitted a variety of work, many chosen were the same projects that have won before (both national and local awards).

Hartman/Cox swept up four out of five of the new awards. Two went to their houses: a 1973 remodeling for Mr. and Mrs. William Watts, in the District, with E.A. Baker Co. of Takoma Park, Md. as the contractor; and a new house for Dr. and Mrs. Richard Conant in Potomac, Md., with Leo T. Thibodeau of Falls Church, contractor, James Madison Cutts and Ayers-Williams-Dodd engineers.

The commercial buildings were National Park Service Riding Stables, built for the Park Service by C&C Industries in 1972, and the National Permanent Building, 1775 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, built in 1977 by the Lenkin Corp for itself, with engineers KCE Structural Engineers and General Engineering Assoc. for mechanical electrical.

Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon won an award for the Pepco Southwest Substation No. 18, built in 1975 by Volpe Construction Co. with Frank Strausburger, structural engineer, and Joseph Ashkenazy, mechanical/electrical engineer.

This year's jury members were: Donald Hisaka, FAIA of Cleveland; Robert A.M. Stern, AIA, New York City; and John Morris Dixon, FAIA, New York City, editor of Progressive Architecture. Donald Meyer was awards director.

Certainly these awards were all well deserved. The houses are pleasant. The Conant house even pays attention to energy efficiency by orienting the windows south, shielded with an overhang. The commercial buildings provide a few grace notes where you wouldn't expect them.

But perhaps, for one year, at least, the chapter might consider establishing a separate catergory for Keyes, Condon and Florance and Hartman/Cox: supreme masters with ivy leaf clusters, or permanent members of the Hall of Fame, or platinum medalist or such. And then give some of the younger architects (all of whom seem to have started out as draftsmen with one or the other firm) a chance at the awards. CAPTION: Picture 1, Winners include, The Richard Conant House; Picture 2, Pepco Substation; Picture 3, National Park Service Riding Stables: Picture 4, National Permanent Building. By Robert Lautman and Warren Cox