Since at least as early as ancient Roman times, humans have recognized the value of what is now known as controlled environment agriculture, allowing farmers to cultivate plants year-round rather than seasonally. Though they were invented hundreds of years ago, greenhouses continue to be the most popular means of controlled environment agriculture today, with innovations in technology and design having improved both the beauty and efficacy of this typology. Below, we will explore in detail the history and structure of the greenhouse, as well as several examples of innovative and experimental greenhouse design. In the 1st century CE, Pliny the Elder documented that Emperor Tiberius was so attached to cucumbers, his gardeners produced an artificial system allowing them to grow the vegetable all year. The ancestor of the modern greenhouse, this system involved frames or cucumber houses glazed with oiled cloth or mica. Similar inventions would take place around the world – the first documented heated greenhouse was invented in Korea in the 1450s, utilizing a floor heating system to complement the insulating greenhouse structure. Experimentation with the size and design of greenhouses then occurred in Europe throughout the 17th century, the greenhouse at Versailles being a stunning example. In the 1800s, greenhouses gradually became a more common phenomenon rather than a domain only of the rich – they spread to universities with the popularization of the field of botany and in 1851, the Great Exhibition was held in what was essentially a large greenhouse.
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