The General Services Administration, resurrecting a program dropped in 1978, yesterday announced 18 winners of awards for design excellence in projects commissioned by the federal government. Washington projects, involving architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, engineering and graphic design, won exactly half of the awards selected by a nine-member jury.

Reviving the program is an "important milestone," observed agency head Richard Austin, recognizing the achievements of the decade past and anticipating "the most extensive building program in GSA history." The GSA construction budget for 1991, he said, is $1.6 billion.

Of the eight "honor" and 10 "citation" awards, seven were allotted to restorations of old federal buildings in whole or in part. This simultaneous recognition of past and present attainments constituted "a kind of double federal leadership," said jury chairman Hugh Hardy, of the New York architecture firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, during a ceremony at the National Building Museum.

Six of the preservation awards were for local buildings. One Washington firm, Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, won three awards for its work in federal buildings here: an honor award for its restoration of the late 19th-century Office of the Secretary of the Navy in the Old Executive Office Building, and citations for the west rotunda in the same building and the law library in the Commerce Building.

Other local preservation efforts receiving honor awards were Arthur Cotton Moore Associates for the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue and Keyes Condon Florance for the Pension Building, now the home of the Building Museum. The restoration of the central research room at the National Archives, accomplished by the design staff of GSA's own Public Buildings Service, was allotted a citation. Nationally, the conversion of a historic hotel in Pasadena, Calif., to a federal court of appeals, by the Pasadena firm of Neptune-Thomas-Davis, received an honor award for preservation.

The Boston firm of Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott, with Jean-Paul Carlhian as principal designer, received an honor award in architecture for the design of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art and the adjacent Sackler Gallery. The firm shared an honor award in landscape architecture with Sasaki Associates, of Watertown, Mass., for the design of the Enid A. Haupt Garden, which surrounds the two museums.

Two visual artists received honor awards for works commissioned under the GSA's art-in-architecture program: painter Jacob Lawrence of Seattle for his mosaic mural "Community," in a federal office building in Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., and sculptor Maria Alquilar of Santa Cruz, Calif., for a large figurative ensemble, "Bien Venida y Vaya con Dios," on the grounds of the U.S. Border Station in San Luis, Ariz.

Three architecture projects receiving citations were the Bonneville Power Administration Headquarters Building in Portland, Ore., by the Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership of Portland; the Hollings Judicial Center, an addition to a 19th-century structure in Charleston, S.C., designed by Goff Associates of Charleston; and the U.S. Port of Entry in Columbus, N.M., by Holmes Sabatini Eeds of Albuquerque.

Three citations were given in the category of building design, energy conservation and engineering. One went to Ernest Vajda and Jeff Haberl (of Washington, D.C., and College Station, Tex., respectively) for a system of "continuous analysis of metered energy data" that saved $260,000 in the first year of its application at the Forrestal federal building in Washington. Another was given to the H.F. Lenz Co., of Johnstown, Pa., for a self-monitoring power supply system to ensure equipment performance at the Internal Revenue Service processing center in Philadelphia. The third was given to the engineering firm of Eaton-Kenway of Salt Lake City for a computerized and robotics storage and retrieval system at the U.S. Army Publications Center in Overland, Mo.

The GSA's own Office of Graphic Design was awarded a citation for its series of 30 posters, "Portrait of the Nation."

"Heritage to Build/Heritage to Keep," an exhibition of panels representing winning projects, opened yesterday at the Building Museum, on F Street between Fourth and Fifth streets NW, where it will remain on view through August.