Washington's latest war memorial war continued yesterday as two bitterly opposed factions presented designs for a national Korean War Veterans Memorial to the Commission of Fine Arts. But neither side came away with a victory. Saying that the "design information was insufficient," the commission postponed a decision for at least one month.

Because of its sponsorship by a federal agency, only one of the designs -- that forwarded by the firm of Cooper-Lecky Architects with the support of the National Park Service and the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board -- was officially on the agenda, as ruled by commission Chairman J. Carter Brown.

Accordingly, the commission ordered Cooper-Lecky to come back next month with mock-ups of critical design elements, to be presented at the actual site proposed for the $15 million, privately funded memorial, a three-acre plot of shaded and open land southeast of the Lincoln Memorial, between the Reflecting Pool and Independence Avenue SW.

But the commission gave full hearing to a team of architects from Pennsylvania State University that submitted the winning design to a 1989 juried competition for the memorial. The team charged that Cooper-Lecky "radically altered" the winning entry without its advice or consent.

Robert Sokolove, an attorney for the team, professed contentment with the commission's no-decision decision. "We feel comfortable," he said, "that if the commission stakes out that {other} design," it will appreciate "the differences in quality" between the two designs. He did, however, hold out the possibility of legal action -- suits charging breach of contract or, possibly, improper carrying out of the competition rules.

The Cooper-Lecky firm, hired to implement the competition design, contended that the changes maintained the spirit of the original while responding to reservations expressed earlier by the Commission of Fine Arts and other reviewing agencies. John Parsons, of the National Park Service, characterized the Cooper-Lecky design as "an evolution from the comments of four separate commissions." Unless "strongly told to do otherwise," Parsons said, the Park Service intends to "stick with" the Cooper-Lecky proposal.

In their comments yesterday most members appeared to agree that the two designs were, indeed, fundamentally different. Saying she was impressed by the "purity and strength" of the original design, member Joan Abrahamson said the Cooper-Lecky proposal "seems almost to be three different memorials." Member Neil Porterfield said the "original is a total piece of sculpture laid on the ground. ... You can't remove landscape elements from it without making a total change." Chairman Brown pointed out that, "to be fair," one would have to recognize the "germ" of the second design in the layout of the first.

The competition-winning design proposes a column of 38 larger-than-life-size sculptures of soldiers proceeding in irregular double file on a west-east axis toward a goal -- "the achievement of peace," in the words of team member Veronica Burns Lucas -- represented by a solitary American flag situated in an open, paved plaza.

Visitors to this memorial would proceed between the figures in the column, isolated in a field of low bushes, to arrive at the plaza, itself divided into "contemplative" and "ceremonial" zones. The memorial is to be screened on the south by a tightly spaced arc of trees and on the north by a grove of trees planted in a formal grid. In response to previous criticisms, the team proposed more grass, less paving in the plaza and several openings in the screening of trees.

Although it maintains the concept of a platoon-strength column of soldiers, the sculptures in the Cooper-Lecky design, as presented by Vermont sculptor Frank Gaylord, represent several services involved in the war (including Army and Marine infantrymen, artillerymen, engineers, medics and Navy and Air Force personnel) and shows the servicemen in various states of action. Unlike the original, this column would be arranged diagonally, on axis with the Lincoln Memorial.

Other major elements of this design are a raised circular plaza for the American flag; a curvilinear walkway bordered by a granite wall etched with designs and words in tribute to other services and other countries contributing to the United Nations cause in Korea; and a circular grove of trees, called a "chapel," honoring the Americans killed, taken prisoner and missing in action in the war.

The Cooper-Lecky design already has received approval from the National Capital Memorial Commission and the American Battle Monuments Commission. In addition to its repeat appearance before the Commission of Fine Arts, it will be presented next month to the National Capital Planning Commission.