When fire broke out in the basement exhibition space of Glasgow School of Art’s iconic Mackintosh Building last year, it quickly became apparent that the result could have been far more sobering had not the Fire Services done such an impeccable job. Yet even with 90% of the structure of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s first major architectural commission – and his masterpiece – saved, the Glasgow School of Art Library was gutted beyond any hope of repair, the famous ‘hen run’ (the glazed corridor at the top of the building) gone, along with an irreplaceable historic archive. In the immediate short term, lost too was much of the work of the final year students, who had been painstakingly finishing off their installations, racing against the clock, as the first flames took hold on the Mackintosh walls.

But a year is a long time, not least when it comes to the restoration of a well-loved architectural masterpiece. The School of Art is covered now in scaffolding, behind which can be seen the odd figure in a hard hat, scrubbing and scraping, before work begins on the multi-million pound renovation project which Page Park Architects, appointed earlier this year, will begin next year. Opposite the burnt-out library hull, however, is the Art School’s glossy Reid Building – clean, fresh, its polished concrete interior the backdrop to an exhibition which has its roots in the destruction of the building over the road.

The Phoenix Bursary Project exhibition is the culmination of the rather wonderful GSA Phoenix bursaries, funded by the Scottish Government to support those students who had lost work in the fire. The 100 students who took up the Phoenix Bursaries were offered a choice – stay in Glasgow and spend five months working alongside other artists in a studio at The Whisky Bond, or take up the offer of a 15-week ‘residency’ at one of many institutions around the world, from the Bergen Academy of Art and Design in Norway to the Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture in Ulan Bator. Over half decided to stay in Glasgow and benefit from a studio and the chance to work as an artist in their first year ‘outside’ art school.

This exhibition is the result, an all-important chance to show work to the public and the art world that the students were denied a year ago. And it all largely looks very good indeed, stacked up over the four floors of the Reid Building. There are a few references to the fire – not least a veneered table, burnt through to reveal the cheap particleboard construction beneath, a nod to the cheaper materials that were found under the rich veneer in the Mackintosh building – but they are rare. Collectively, this group of students has moved on.

There is a huge amount to take in. Textiles, wall drawings – not least Frank McElhinney’s 990 pencil grids – sculptural installation, a preoccupation with the ‘other’. A room of video works opens with Caitlin Alexandra Robinson’s performance video, a humorous but pointed critique on sexism and the polarisation of the sexes as restaged through the prism of 1950s food and drink commercials. Further on, Lydia Levett’s rather more sober installation has, as its lynchpin, a film in which three people steadily support a fragile paper cage, a loosely geodesic dome, held up from the inside with sticks and the palms of hands amidst the graffitied wasteland of St Peter’s Seminary. There is a strong sense of fragility, perhaps the fragility of the worlds we construct around ourselves. One gust, and it could all be blown away.

Upstairs, for anyone overcome by the immensity of the exhibition, Aberdonian student Marklesparkles (who spent his residency in Buenos Aires) has built a waiting room, although this sensorily-overloaded space may have you running for the nearest hill – and in this particular corner of Glasgow, you won’t have far to go. On a wall nearby, in spare contrast, there is a live video feed of what turns out to be a piece of fluorescent strip lighting in another room.

There is sculpture (not least Reginald MacDonald’s fine classically-inspired torsos and allegories), installation, some humour. On the wall, Kate Gallagher’s disturbed drawings explore image, social pressure and self-disgust, while her mini-comics take the form of somewhat more humorous ‘autobiographical’ diaries. There’s a preoccupation with framing the mundane and the everyday, and I particularly liked Nicola Massie’s trash museum, a collection of tiny scraps of plastic bags, receipts and newspaper, sealed in resin and carefully lined up, like paperweights, on a shelf.

Further on, Rachel Hendry’s box installation takes stop-motion animated objects – a paper square, an inquisitive dot, an elongated yellow shape – and shifts them around a grid. Ostensibly it’s about painting, but as these re-jigging shapes continually try to find their space and work their way around each other, one can’t help but find a curiously hypnotic parallel in work of the artists surrounding her. Here is a group of young artists trying to joggle their way into place in the art – and wider – world. And one can’t deny that the Phoenix Bursaries have been a fantastic way to cushion the landing.

The Phoenix Bursary Project, Reid Building, Glasgow School of Art, 164 Renfrew Street, Glasgow (0141 353 4500, www.gsa.ac.uk) until August 2, Mon–Thu, 10am-9pm; Fri 10am-7pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-5pm