The state of Virginia and the National Endowment for the Arts joined forces yesterday to launch a worldwide design competition for the state's new Center for Innovative Technology to be built near Dulles International Airport.

"This new, this innovative, this untried idea . . . can change the future of the state of Virginia," Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb said during a news conference at the newly renovated Pavilion at the Old Post Office here. The center is the cornerstone of Robb's ambitious program to create a high-technology center in Northern Virginia.

The design competition is being partly funded by a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, according to Francis S.M. Hodsoll, chairman of the endowment. He said that his agency was excited about the design competition because he envisions that the center will make "a statement, through its architecture, on the future of industry in this area."

The center, a quasi-public corporation funded by the state, is expected to act as a sort of brokerage house that would match high-tech firms needing research with those Virginia universities that can provide such research.

The Virginia General Assembly has approved $11 million for construction of the center on a 35-acre site straddling the border of Loudoun and Fairfax counties, and an additional $19 million to improve research facilities at five state universities.

Charles W. Steger, who is supervising the competition, said there are few buildings designed for these purposes, "so we can't exactly predict what the entries will be like."

Sponsors expect that the worldwide competition will attract about 500 entries. There will be five $5,000 first-place awards and 10 $1,000 awards.

The proposals will be used to gather the best concepts from which the actual building can be designed, according to Steger, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg.

Robb and Steger both noted that the sponsors are interested in the "intelligent building" -- a structure that "focuses on the merger between buildings and the computer, resulting in a new architecture that is tuned to the nature and spirit of our times."

He referred to the Pompidou Center in Paris, where doors automatically close after a certain number of people have entered so that the mechanical and structural systems of the building are not overloaded. Other buildings use computers to adjust temperature and lights, and to monitor carbon dioxide levels and adjust ventilation.

British architect Richard Rogers, one of the designers of the Pompidou Center, will be one of five judges. The other judges will be landscape architect and planner Phillip H. Lewis, who is director of Environmental Awareness in Wisconsin; Gunnar Birkerts, an award-winning architect and professor at the University of Michigan; Paul A. Kennon, a Texas architect and engineering consultant; and Anthony D. Autorino, chairman of Building Systems Co., a division of United Technologies Corp.

Designs must be submitted by Feb. 15. In a few days, promotional posters will be mailed to all schools of architecture in the United States and some in foreign countries. The jury will meet March 10-13 and announce its results.