Two vast, white cruciform sculptures have been installed in St Paul’s Cathedral as part of plans to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The structures, which are each 20ft in height, feature on them, small models of towns which have been ravaged by war, including some destroyed in recent conflicts such as Syria and Afghanistan.

The works, hanging at the head of the nave, have been created by Gerry Judah, 62, who has previously worked on stage sets for Sir Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, and promotional sculptures for car companies such as Ferrari and Porsche.

He has suggested that some may find his decision to portray modern towns destroyed by conflict as “distasteful” in a commemoration of the First World War, but said the works “pose questions about what has continued to go wrong after that war”.

Judah, who in 2000 created a work depicting part of Auschwitz concentration camp for the Imperial War Museum London, was approached last summer by St Paul’s.

The cathedral has run a visual arts programme for the past decade, with contributors including Antony Gormley and Yoko Ono.

Judah said: “It is a great honour to have been selected to create these two new works as part of the World War I commemorations at St Paul’s Cathedral, a building that has historically come to symbolise the triumph of hope and redemption in the face of conflict.

“These sculptures are intended to appeal to our feelings of pity and charity, as well as filling us with hope for the future, which, I feel, is one of the principal purposes of a great place of worship, contemplation and meditation such as St Paul’s.”

The Reverend Canon Mark Oakley, The Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, added: “Gerry Judah’s striking sculptures confront us with the reality of a War that saw thousands and thousands of young people from around the world buried with white crosses and stones over their remains. They also provoke us into interrogating the present world and the landscapes we casually view on the news every day, as scarred and agonised by military hate as the hearts and minds of those who survive.”