Location and appearance
The vault was situated at the base of the tallest mountain in a polar region of the planet. The building was grown rather than constructed and, consequently, had wood in its structure. The Thirteenth Doctor believed it to be alive.
It was a black angular, wedge-shaped building constructed from light-sucking material. Its visible part was 200 metres high and approximately 50 metres across. The building extended deep into the mountain. The vault was connected to the mainland by a narrow metal bridge without guardrails stretching over a deep chasm.
Drones were sent and returned to the drone hangar, a launch-and-retrieval bay. The retrieval section with a conveyor belt enclosed in a sealed transparent tunnel was at the far end.
The inside of the vault was illuminated via bioluminescence that reacted to the presence of visitors.
The vault possessed its own internal transport system in a form of capsule-shaped vehicles.
There were twelve consecutive seed storage vaults connected by corridors, each storage vault containing glass pillars hundreds of metres high, which were filled with spherical seed jars. Firefly-like insects inspected seed jars to ensure perfect conditions. A storage vault on one end was connected by a corridor to the control room. From the storage vault on the opposite side, it was possible to access the secret thirteenth storage vault via a holographic shield wall disguised as a cliff face. Passing through this shield required hitting it at a particular angle and velocity. This Vault 13 contained the most highly prized, and often dangerous, seeds in the collection, including doppelpod and Venusian gulper. Vault 13 was half the size of the other storage vaults. Glass spheres with seeds in Vault 13 hang from sculptures of trees. The first seed in the collection, the Genesis Seed, was locked behind Zeno's paralock. (PROSE: The Secret in Vault 13)
The Galactic Seed Vault was created by the First Gardener with the help of Time Lords. It was considered one of the most secure buildings in the universe. In particular, it had ground-to-air defences.
Visitors were not allowed, to prevent the risk of contamination. Seeds were collected by automated seed-collecting drones the size of a bird, which sometimes sought a particular seed for a thousand years.
At some point thousands of years before the visit of the Thirteenth Doctor, renegade Gardeners who preceded Nightshade by ten generations smuggled a seed of a modified variety of noughtweed into the vault.
At some point several thousand years before the visit of the Thirteenth Doctor, four plant-hunters broke into the vault to source seeds for a private collector. They did not make it past the first level of security. Several months later pots with their remains in the form of compost were delivered to each of their home worlds.
When the Thirteenth Doctor and Yasmin Khan entered the vault, noughtweed has already spread through eight seed storage vaults damaging them beyond repair. At that time, the vault stored eight-hundered-and-thirty billion varieties of plant in seed form.